You may want to keep your snow shovel handy: The government reopened after a shutdown, and the Winter Olympics are around the corner. Last time both of those things were true, it was the winter of 2013-14 when wintry mayhem broke loose in February.
A few polar vortexes and many snowstorms later, D.C. was sitting on 32 inches of snow for the season. That’s a little more than twice our normal around here!
Believe it or not, the past predicted such a snowy winter before it even started. Winters coinciding with government shutdowns have a history of tending cold and snowy. And, in February 2014, it snowed big in Washington around the Winter Olympics, for the third time in a row.
So with the recent federal shutdown and Winter Olympics two weeks away, perhaps another onslaught of snow is in the pipeline; that is, if you believe in such correlations. (We forgive you if you do not.)
Shutdown winters are frequently snowy winters
As the 2013 federal shutdown began, we warned you: previous shutdown winters had a history of big snow and cold. At that time, above average snowfall had occurred in eight of 12 shutdown winters. 2013-14’s 32 inches made it nine of 13, or roughly 70 percent of winters.
Of the 13 shutdown winters, D.C. has now seen an average snowfall of 23.3 inches. That is 7.9 inches above our average and 20.1 inches above where we sit today.
In February alone, the average snow during shutdown winters is 10.3 inches, which is almost twice the normal for the month. In the winter of 2013-14, we saw 11.2 inches of snow in February and even more in March, 12.7 inches — the most in that month since 1960. The St. Patrick’s Day storm was one of the biggest so late in the year.
Just think about that while it’s 60 degrees, and we await the next cold pattern that is likely to increase our snow odds.
With the Olympics coming, it’s an even snowier story … sort of
Astute snow lovers in our area will recall we have witnessed big snows in the last three Februaries featuring the Winter Olympic Games. (Maybe local ski areas Liberty, Whitetail and Wintergreen should put in a pitch to host?) First, it was the Blizzard of 2006, then Snowmageddon in 2010, and finally Snochi in 2014.
Were these three blockbuster storms indicative of a pattern, or just random events? When we look at the 10 February-March periods during Winter Olympics years dating from 1980, it seems more the latter.
While we saw a chest-high 32.1 inches in February 2010, there are a few Winter Games years with little snow as well, like the infamous 1997-98 winter that produced 0.1 of an inch in total for the city, a record low. That said, the average for February over the past 10 Winter Games years is 9.1 inches, which is above normal but, heavily influenced by 2010, the one giant year.
The wintertime average for winters with Olympic Games since 1980 is 17.9 inches for D.C., which is a slightly above average.
It sure seems all signs are pointing to snow.
So, in conclusion . . .
Maybe you remember the Dec. 5 coincidence when it snowed on that date five times in eight years from 2002 to 2009? It hasn’t snowed on that date since. It was just a weird blip in history.
While fun to track, I know/confess these coincidences don’t really mean anything beyond their history. Their sample sizes are small and, of course, there is no science to connect political and sporting events to weather.
That said, let’s just say if we have a lot of snow coming up in February and March, I won’t be shocked.