3.1 inches: That’s all the snow Washington has officially mustered this winter, even after some of the most frigid weather in years. For snow lovers, it’s a pathetic total.
Cities in the South where snowbirds flock and palm trees sway have witnessed more. Charleston, boasting an average high temperature of 60 in January, has nearly double the snowfall output of Washington this winter.
Birmingham and Atlanta, where the populace panics at the mere mention of a flurry, have higher amounts.
Here’s a partial list of Southern cities with more snow than Washington and just how much they’ve received:
- Baton Rouge: 3.5 inches
- Jackson, Miss.: 5.9 inches
- Birmingham, Ala.: 4.0 inches
- Atlanta: 4.7 inches
- Charleston: 5.3 inches
- Raleigh: 3.3 inches (with heavy snow falling at press time)
- Norfolk: 10.3 inches
- Richmond: 6.1 inches
- Salisbury, Md.: 16.4 inches
How are these cities with such mild climes outdoing Washington when it comes to snow? It all boils down to the storm track.
Our region keeps sitting in no man’s land when storms approach. They swing to our north, glide by to the south, cut to our west and skirt to our east. If there’s a way for them to miss, they find that way.
In the case of Wednesday’s snow event, the same storm system missed us in two different ways: Its surface low pressure center formed to our northeast, while the high-altitude disturbance slipped by to our south. The result? Washington occupies a snow hole, while cities on either side of us get pasted.
The Southern cities with snow tallies exceeding Washington have landed near a stormy sweet spot at least once.
Opportunities for snow have been plentiful in Washington, but they’ve amounted to very little. We’ve seen five accumulating snow events — which is on par with a normal year through this point in the season, maybe even ahead of schedule. But look at the measly totals:
- Dec. 9: 1.5 inches
- Dec. 15: 0.2 inches
- Dec. 30: 0.2 inches
- Jan. 4: 0.8 inches
- Jan. 17: 0.4 inches
These amounts aren’t enough to even shovel or sled (but apparently enough to cancel schools).
For perspective, more snow piled up in Erie, Pa., in two hours in its record-setting storm in late December than Washington all winter.
Of course, Washington is a pro at these dusting to two-inch snows, most common here historically. More than 60 percent of snows since the late 1800s have fallen in this range. But most winters we also see one or two storms in 4-inch or more territory.
This year’s La Niña event has something to do with the lack of more significant events. During La Niña winters, weaker storms, more limited in moisture, tend to affect the Mid-Atlantic. They often fail to hit Washington squarely. Importantly, the juicy Southeast coastal storms, which are our big snow producers and most common in El Niños, tend to form to our northeast.
Over the next week to 10 days, chances for Washington to break out of this snow drought are slim as temperatures are predicted to be milder than normal.
We’ll have to see what February, historically our snowiest month, has in store. Personally, I’m fast growing tired of drawing up dusting to two-inch snow maps. It’s past time we bury our Southern neighbors.