Veterans Day services in the snow at Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 1987. (Washington Weather)

Closing in on Thanksgiving and talking accumulating snow potential in the D.C. area? It happens, but not too often.

We have to go back to November 14, 1996 for the last time D.C. has officially recorded measurable snow prior to December. It was a paltry 0.2 inches.

On the other end of the spectrum — the record holder for the month and so early in the season — there’s Veterans Day 1987. 11.5″ in a doubly unusual storm where the District and its eastern suburbs were hammered by more than 11 inches of snow.

With these events in mind, let’s take a quick dive into November snow to see how unusual it would be to get accumulation of any sort. Even a few inches might literally classify as historic.

There have been 45 snow accumulation events (0.1″+ snow) in November throughout D.C.’s snow history dating back to 1888. This comes out to roughly 4 percent of all winter accumulation events over the period. So it’s pretty rare, especially of late.


Top 10 November snowstorms at D.C. Dates since 1945 are as measured at National Airport. *Daily records for this period indicate 7.3″ fell, but the monthly total reported on the NWS Baltimore/Washington site is 7.0″ , so numbers were amended to match that for this presentation.

As noted, the 11.5 inches that fell during Veterans Day 1987 ranks as the highest snowfall in D.C. during the month, and as you see above, that’s by a good bit.

The next tier for November snowfall records is around 7 inches, with three events clustered in that zone. Numbers two through four are 7 inches (1938), 6.9 inches (1967), and 6.6 inches (1953). Any snow event of 3 inches or more breaks into the top 10 for the city during the month.

Of course, early-season snow events recorded at National Airport since 1945 are often not representative of the broader region, as it frequently records lesser amounts. Its location is very poor for snow lovers — near sea-level, on the water, and embedded near the urban center of the area. On Dec. 5, 2009 as one example, the airport recorded 0.2 inches while the upper northwest D.C. picked up 1.5-2 inches or so. In late October 2011, similar was seen, with a trace at the airport and up to 1 inch in northwest Washington.

For comparison, I decided to put together Dulles’ top snowstorms during the month as well. The period is much shorter, so achieving a top 10 snowfall is certainly an easier endeavor.


Top 10 November snowstorms at Dulles, Va.

The biggest event during the month at Dulles occurred on the 30th in 1967, when 11.4 inches was recorded. The rest of the top 5 there range from 5.3 inches to 3.3 inches, which is actually fairly similar to the bounds at National.

With this year’s storm poised to strike on the 26th, daily records from both locations are possibly in play. The 2.2 inches (1898) record at D.C. may be tough to break, but the 1.1 inches (1978) at Dulles is seemingly easily within range.