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Winter storm comes to a close in D.C. after 2 to 4 inches of sloppy snow

The first and only snowstorm of the season fell short for a big part of the D.C. region. Capital Weather Gang's Angela Fritz breaks down why. (Video: Claritza Jimenez, Angela Fritz/The Washington Post, Photo: Getty/AFP/The Washington Post)
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Metro on Saturday scheduleWednesday closures and delaysSnowfall totals | D.C.-area forecast through the weekend: Winter blast fades later today, but the cold wind hangs around

Snow, sleet and freezing rain began Monday evening and continued overnight. Snowfall totals reached 10 inches in Frederick County, 4 inches in northern Montgomery, 6.5 in Loudoun County and 3 inches in the Beltway. Temperatures have climbed above freezing and are expected to remain there through the rest of the afternoon, which should help in the clean-up process. There’s still quite a bit of slush out there, especially in the suburbs.

A brief burst of snow drifted through the region around 1:20 p.m., but has since vanished. That will probably be our last look at snow until next winter, though we may see some flurries this evening.

This is why Tuesday’s ‘blizzard’ was a total dud in New York City

Read on for updates as the storm unfolded…

1:20 p.m. update: An impressive wrap-around snow band has pivoted southeastward in the storm’s wake. Snow is breaking out around the metro region as far west as Fairfax and as far east as Baltimore. This snow band will reduce visibility, lower temperatures, and may add a coating to an inch or so of accumulation. The most snow is likely northeast of the District toward Baltimore, where it will last longest (up to an hour or so). It will move out of the area from southwest to northeast through between about 2 and 3 p.m. Use caution driving in this.

10:14 a.m. update: Well, precipitation is changing over to snow in the western suburbs, but there’s not much of it. There’s light snow falling in Vienna — thanks to readers for that report — but precipitation has all but paused in the Beltway. Looking at radar, it seems as if the bulk of this storm could be over for the immediate metro and will be over in the eastern suburbs in the next hour or two.

The biggest impact by far in the region has been the ice accumulation in our south and southeast counties. Trees have been uprooted and some power lines are down.

If short-term forecast models (below) are to be believed, the temperature will stay above freezing around the Beltway through at least 5 or 6 p.m., which will make road and sidewalk clean-up easier. Light scattered snow showers are likely into the afternoon, and the wind is already picking up speed — DCA is reporting gusts above 30 mph.

Cities in the Northeast are dealing with snow, sleet and rain as a winter storm travels from Washington to New York and New England. (Video: Monica Akhtar, Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

9:30 a.m. update: The storm’s back edge has reached Prince William County to our southwest and is trying to push northeast towards the metro area. But short-term modeling says is it may not make a lot of progress as the storm winds up and tries to set up a band of wrap-around precipitation into the region. It remains to be seen if this wrap-around band materializes and how heavy the precipitation will be.

Now that the storm center (over the southern Delmarva) is nearing our latitude, it is starting to draw colder air in at high altitudes and starting a transition from sleet and freezing rain to snow. Dulles had switched from sleet to snow as of 9 a.m. If the wrap-around band hovers over the region, the mixed precipitation should go over to snow over the next couple hours from west to east across the region. And we could get a little accumulation. We’ll have to watch and see how this plays out.

Temperatures remain near and below freezing and winds are gusting over 30 mph. It’s nasty out there.

9:10 a.m. update: This storm has produced some big snow totals, you just need to head into northern Frederick County, Md. to see them. Over a foot in spots:

Meanwhile in eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey, it is “puking” snow:

9:00 a.m. update: For all those wondering, Reagan National Airport says it has received two inches of snow so far. That’s right in the middle of reports from around the immediate metro which range from one to three inches of snow and sleet. Dulles had picked up 2.6 inches as of early this morning. The White House, as of 7 a.m. had record 2.5 inches (and an impressive 2.34 inches of liquid equivalent).

8:45 a.m. update: Capital Weather Gang’s Kevin Ambrose is at the Tidal Basin where snow and sleet cover the ground and ice is coating the cherry blossoms. The blossoms, especially those far along in the bloom cycle, are likely to take a beating from this snow, ice, and cold.

8:10 a.m. update: Radar and reports via Twitter and Facebook indicate that much of the metro region continues to experience a nasty mix of sleet and freezing rain, with temperatures 27-33 degrees. The sleet is trying to change back to snow in central and eastern Loudoun County and northwest Montgomery County and the transition to snow should accelerate and begin to push east towards the close-in metro region over the next several hours.

Here are some D.C. scenes:

7:40 a.m. update: We have seen reports of power outages, trees and wires down, and treacherous untreated roads in parts of Prince George’s, Stafford, and Charles County due to freezing rain overnight. Temperatures there may slowly rise above freezing, but it will take a few hours and a band of snow may try to pass through before precipitation ends in that area.

One of the surprises in this storm, in addition to the lower-than-expected snow totals in Washington’s immediate north and west suburbs, has been the cold temperatures near the ground. Freezing temperatures penetrated south through Stafford and Charles County and east through Prince George’s overnight and have stayed cold through the morning.

7:25 a.m. update: It’s not just Washington’s north and west suburbs where more sleet than expected may decimate forecast snow totals. New York City, which was expecting upwards of a foot of snow, has changed to sleet and may only get half that much:

Philadelphia is also getting much less snow than initially expected due to a mix of sleet, rain, and freezing rain.

6:50 a.m. update: What comes next? Our go-to short range model, the HRRR, suggests the wintry mix (sleet and freezing rain) will continue for the next few hours but that it should gradually transition to snow between mid-morning and noon from west to east, before tapering off mid-afternoon. It shows the potential for a heavier band of snow to develop as the storm pulls away which could produce a little more snow accumulation. However, this band, if it materializes (not a sure thing), will coincide with the middle of the day when the strong March sun angle may temper accumulation some. Temperatures should continue to hover in the upper 20s to near 30 in our colder areas and in the low 30s elsewhere, except mid-30s near the Bay and milder south and east locations.

6:25 a.m. update: A road report from Washington Post reporter T. Rees Shapiro traveling through Northern Virginia (from around 5 a.m.):

50 is one lane totally clear on each side on ramp to 495 are still snow-covered. 495 itself is relatively clean with blacktop visible. 66 has a layer of slush that makes for very slippery conditions.
In Falls Church I had about 2.5 inches of snow when I left about 30 minutes ago and precipitation at changed to freezing rain/sleet.
The result of slush and very very wet snow on roadways I’d say conditions are not great for commuting. I’m pretty surprised.
New York is preparing for a major snowstorm with up to 20 inches of snow expected in some areas, including New York City. (Video: The Washington Post)

6:10 a.m. update: How much snow and sleet has fallen? In the immediate metro region, about one to three inches, based on reports. Amounts increase to around 4 inches around Leesburg, and 5 inches in western Loudoun County. The highest total reported to the National Weather Service, so far, is 5.5 inches near Manchester in Carroll County.

Let us know how much snow and sleet you have in the comment section below.

5:40 a.m. update: Temperatures across the D.C. region are near or below freezing, except right along the Bay. With this nasty wintry mix, reports from Twitter indicate many roads are covered in a film of sleet and compacted snow. It’s possible to drive on this stuff with caution, but best to stay put if you can.

5:10 a.m. update: Because the wintry mix, falling throughout the region, has reduced snowfall totals in the immediate metro area and as far north and west as eastern Loudoun County and northern Montgomery County, the winter storm warning has been downgraded to a winter weather advisory. But, from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t really change the fact the roads are slick and hazardous in many areas. Use caution out there.

In Frederick, Carroll, and western Loudoun County, the winter storm warning for heavy snow accumulations of 6-12 inches remains in effect.

11:55 p.m. update: The snow has mixed with or changed to sleet and some freezing rain in parts of the District. Between approximately midnight and 3 a.m., we should see that transition line continue to make progress to the north and west, with sleet and freezing rain perhaps pushing well into Montgomery and Fairfax counties. Everyone could go back to mostly snow after 6 a.m. or so, before precipitation starts to taper by around 9 a.m. Temperatures are currently below freezing across the entire area and roads will become increasingly hazardous overnight into the early morning.

We’re taking a break for a few hours, but will resume with live updates in this same post by around or before 5 a.m. Until then, the radar above will continue to update. And remember, our snow/sleet forecast map remains unchanged from earlier, and can be found at the bottom of this post.

11:25 p.m. update: The snow has been coming down heavy in parts of the area, especially around and inside the Beltway, coating the grass and some roads. Some spots have already reported over an inch. Time for some pics!…

10:35 p.m. update: Heavier snow, with perhaps some sleet, is moving into the DMV. Everyone should see the snow accumulate nicely before sleet tries to intrude into much of the area after midnight or 1 a.m., except for the far north and west suburbs which should stay mostly snow. With temperatures falling to at or below freezing, it should be a snowy/icy mess out there late tonight into the morning, which is why so many schools have already closed. Everyone could change back to snow for a bit before the precipitation starts to taper by 9 a.m. or so.

Speaking of that transition from snow to mixed precipitation, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center is advertising that changeover to sleet, possibly even some freezing rain, for the I-95 corridor from D.C. to Baltimore in its map below. The NWS accompanying text states “several recent model runs suggest that this southern fringe of the snow zone may begin to mix with/change to sleet or freezing rain around midnight.”

9:55 p.m. update: An area of steadier and heavier precipitation, likely to be mostly snow, will overspread much of the area over the next hour. Look for snow to accumulate nicely on grass first, but fairly quickly it could start to cover roads. Some sleet may mix in as well. Now is the time to stay put as conditions begin to deteriorate, with temperatures dipping to near or just below the freezing mark during the next couple hours.

9 p.m. update: We’ve had a variety of precipitation types reported across the area in the last hour. We expect the precipitation to become mostly snow as it becomes steadier and heavier over the next hour or two, but with more mixing overnight as discussed below. Already we hear that grass and cars are picking up a light accumulation of snow, but roads still in good shape. Note, though, that temperatures have cooled considerably, down to around 32-24 in most spots, so some roads in our colder suburbs could become slick in the next couple of hours.

8:05 p.m. update: The snow should start to pick up and begin to accumulate in earnest after 9 or 10 p.m. Our far north and west suburbs (6-12″ band on map at bottom of this post) should stay mostly snow through the night. The big question with this storm for the close-in suburbs and in the city is how much sleet mixes in from the southeast during the overnight hours, mainly after 1 a.m. or so. This is super tricky to predict when you’re right on the rain-sleet-snow line like we are. The simulated radar below (from the HRRR model) shows how things might evolve (blue is snow, pink is sleet, green and yellow are rain):

7:10 p.m. update: And our first significant storm of the season is underway. Well, if you count flurries and some light snow. That’s what we’re seeing intermittently across the area. With temperatures above freezing, roads should be just fine until at least 9 or 10 p.m., after which the snow should become steadier and temperatures colder.

7:00 p.m. update: For reference, here is our snow forecast accumulation map:

Roundup of expert snow predictions: Can you out-forecast them? (POLL)