(Weather Underground)

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Key points:

    • This is a long-duration event, with snow forecast for 36 hours or so through Saturday evening.
    • Snow is moderate to heavy into at least Saturday morning, decreasing some Saturday afternoon.
    • Thunder snow is possible late tonight and Saturday and extreme snowfall rates of two to three inches per hour are possible.
    • Winds may gust to 40 mph on Saturday, causing whiteout conditions and some blowing and drifting snow. Stronger gusts to 50 mph are possible east of the District toward the Bay.
    • Power outages are possible.
    • Total snow accumulations 16-30 inches. Highest north and west of District, lowest southeast.

2:50 a.m. update: Since it’s been so intense out there in recent hours with multiple bands of heavy snow moving through, let’s take a look at some late-night imagery as totals near and surpass a foot in spots with many other locations into double digits.

Capital Weather Gang's Angela Fritz takes snow accumulation measurements from downtown D.C. and makes predictions for the potentially historic blizzard hitting the Washington area and the mid-Atlantic. (Ashleigh Joplin,Angela Fritz/The Washington Post)

High resolution models and radar both suggest that in the very near term it may be the north and west suburbs taking the biggest hit, but additional heavy snow bands — perhaps the big show of the night — are likely to develop and move through as well. No lengthy let up in sight.

Wrap-up, 11:59 p.m.: Overnight into Saturday morning, the worst of the storm cycles through the region with heavy snow and increasing winds. By 7 a.m., many areas will have snowfall totals well over a foot, while wind gusts over 30 mph become widespread. In our southern and southeast suburbs, some periods of sleet may cut down on snow totals.

In the pre-dawn hours and once daylight breaks, the combination of heavy snow and strong winds may well create whiteout conditions. You may hear some thunder accompanying the snowfall. Travel will be virtually impossible and you are urged to stay off the roads.

We will have a fresh forecast posted at 5 a.m. and will resume a new post with live updates at 6 a.m. Stay safe tonight and feel free to continue the conversation in our comment area, which we suspect will remain active. If anything particularly noteworthy occurs during the overnight period, we will update this post.

11:45 p.m. update: It is ripping snow right now as the storm is hitting its stride. Radar has filled in and heavy bands are surging from the south to the north-northwest. The radar is impressive although some of the heavier returns in Southern Maryland reflect sleet rather than snow.

(Weather Underground)
(Weather Underground)

11:25 p.m. update: Tremendous view of our developing storm…

The National Weather Service released an animation on Friday showing the intensification of the winter storm which has hit the East Coast. (YouTube/NWSOPC)

11:20 p.m. update: At 11 p.m., Reagan National Airport reported moderate snow, blowing snow and winds gusting to 29 mph. Visibility was 0.5 miles. Snow totals across the region range from 5-8 inches, except 8-10 in our south and southeast areas from around Fredericksburg to Southern Maryland. However, these areas with the most snow have reported mixing with sleet in the last hour which will cut into their snow as long as that continues. Here’s a roundup of totals:

Va: Fairfax 6″, Alexandria 6″, Haymarket 7-8″, Herndon 6.5″, Burke 6″, Chantilly 7″, Falls Church 7″, Woodbridge 7.5″, Centreville 7″, Arlington 7″
D.C.: NW 6-7″, Capitol Hill 6″,
Md.: Takoma Park 7″, Hyattsville 7.5″, Annapolis 8″, Gaithersburg 8″. Potomac 5-6″, Bethesda 7″, La Plata 7.5″, Laurel 6″, Olney 7″

11:05 p.m. update: Washingtonians seemed enthused by the snow as it got going earlier today:

The District braces for a massive snowfall as residents head indoors and off the streets for the weekend. (McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

10:55 p.m. update: Nice images of what we’ve seen so far…

…but the forecast of what’s to come is ominous:

10:40 p.m. update: Look at the size and textbook structure of this storm via water vapor satellite imagery:


(NASA)

10:30 p.m. update: Starting to see some 7 and 8 inch snow totals in the region, which could double over the next 8 hours as this storm really starts to crank.

10:15 p.m. update: The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center just issued a special heavy snow discussion highlighting the potential for snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour over our region between now and about 3 a.m. Excerpt:

SNOWFALL INTENSITY WILL INCREASE WITHIN A CONSOLIDATING BAND OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS. SNOWFALL AROUND 1-2 INCHES PER HOUR WITH LOCALLY HIGHER RATES IS EXPECTED.
(NWS SPC)
(NWS SPC)

10:05 p.m. update: Ahead of the heavy inbound band (see below), snow totals around the D.C. area seem to be around 4-7 inches.  At 10 p.m., Reagan National Airport reported moderate snow and blowing snow with winds sustained at 22 mph gusting to 28 mph. Visibility was just one-half mile. The windy and wild phase of the storm is starting to begin.

9:52 p.m. update: Very heavy snow band approaching D.C. and eastern suburbs from the south, to unleash rates of 1-2 inches per hour between about 10:30 p.m. and midnight.

(Weather Underground)
(Weather Underground)

9:42 p.m. update: This is so cool…

A NASA Center for Climate Simulation supercomputer model shows the flow of the massive snow storm over the East Coast through Sunday, Jan. 24. (YouTube/Nasa.gov Video)

9:40 p.m. update: Some lovely night scenes around the District as an impressive snow band cycles through:

9:30 p.m. update: This storm has presented no shortage of model simulations with obscene amounts of snow, so why not share another?  Of course, we have always felt these high-end forecasts stretch credibility. BUT, it’s not out of the question someone, somewhere in the region sees these kind of totals.  Here’s the latest NAM model run  – which shows widespread 30 inches totals from the District north and west by midnight Sunday:


NAM model snow forecast spanning 7 p.m. Friday to midnight Sunday. (StormVistaWxModels.com)

Realistically, our winter weather expert Wes Junker thinks we should shave off about 25 percent off these totals, reminding us the model has a wet bias.

9:10 p.m. update: Snow’s piling up, as seen by the many photos we’ve been seeing. Here are a few.

Compared to earlier

Snow!

8:45 p.m. update: Radar is really lighting up with big snow bands in the last hour or so. There’s a batch hosting waves of them headed this way. If you look back at an event like Snowmageddon, you see similar features as it began to really pummel the area. As of now any mixing is well south, between Fredericksburg and Richmond. It may creep north for a while, so we’ll watch that. Big snow bursts for the next several hours.


8:45 p.m. radar. (Radarscope)

8:35 p.m. update: It’s getting real out there.

8:20 p.m. update: Snow has been coming down steadily, but also in a rather friendly way so far. Some folks are asking where the wind is. There’s going to be a steady increase into the night and you’re likely to notice gustier conditions when any heavy snow bands blast through prior. Sustained winds should head toward the 20-30 mph range as we get past midnight, with gusts pushing 40 mph.


Wind gust forecast from the GFS. (Weatherbell.com)

The windiest time of this storm probably comes closer to sunrise, and it could stay very windy through the afternoon. During the near sunrise to mid-afternoon zone, gusts toward 50 mph are possible. Winds are strongest D.C. and east, particularly on the bay/coast or in exposed areas.

8:00 p.m. update: CWG’s Angela Fritz compiled a short list of snow totals thus far. I added my own that I just took in Cleveland Park, D.C. (upper northwest part of the city). We appreciate the reports!

The District (Northeast) – 3 inches
The National Mall – 3.5 inches
Cleveland Park (NW D.C.) – 4 inches
Arlington, Va. – 4 inches
Alexandria, Va. – 4.3 inches
Dulles International – 3 inches
Independent Hill, Va. – 4.5 inches
Hyattsville, Md. – 3.2 inches
Bowie, Md. – 1.7 inches
Germantown, Md. – 3.8 inches
Gaithersburg, Md. – 3.5 inches
Lake Barcroft, Va. – 4 inches
Broken Hill, Va. – 6 inches

7:40 p.m. update: A zoom on local radar shows snowfall starting to supercharge in spots. Growing signs of “convective” snow banding are showing up — think bubbling thunderstorms and their enhanced precipitation even if there’s no lightning, yet. A good rule with most radar color schemes is that yellow (technical: 30dBZ+) colors are where big things happen when it comes to heavy snow. These bands can really get totals moving upward quickly.


Heavier banding showing up on radar in the area around 7:30 p.m. (College of Dupage)

7:20 p.m. update: Snow reports are coming in fast. The National Weather Service recently sent out an update on totals through 7:11 p.m., and much of the area is in a roughly 3 to 5 inch zone through mid-evening. The highest totals are mainly to the southwest so far, where snow started first. A high mark comes from Fauquier County of 6 inches near Opal. In the immediate area, totals of around 3 to 4 inches are quite common.

6:55 p.m. update: Snowfall rates are up this evening, and it’s a fluffy snow so it’s piling up quite quickly. As a storm system continues to gain strength off the South Carolina coast, it’s already sending intense precipitation into southeast Virginia and eastern North Carolina. With time, this enhanced precipitation will begin to move into our area as blinding snowfall.

The latest short-range HRRR model highlights increasing risk of heavy snow into the night as shown in the simulated radar below. This model runs through 8 a.m.


Simulated radar from the HRRR model through 8 a.m. (Weatherbell.com)

The model drops roughly another 5-10 inches over the area through midnight, finishes with huge totals, and still has snow falling moderately to heavily when it completes.


HRRR simulated snowfall totals. (Weatherbell.com)
Capital Weather Gang's Jason Samenow gives the latest forecast and snow accumulation predictions for the potentially historic blizzard hitting the Washington area and the mid-Atlantic. (Ashleigh Joplin,Jason Samenow/The Washington Post)