Some of the mildest weather in weeks in the Washington region arrives Tuesday, as temperatures shoot up over 60 degrees. But a little more than 12 hours after that, it may be snowing.
A strong Arctic front is set to plow across the region late Tuesday, causing temperatures to plunge and possibly changing rain to a brief period of wet snow late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning.
As the front approaches on Tuesday, scattered rain showers are possible at any time as temperatures rise into the 60s. But the air will cool rapidly Tuesday night into Wednesday morning as winds come in from the north and steadier rain develops.
Weather models suggest rain could mix with and change to wet snow between the predawn hours Wednesday and sunrise, first in Washington’s colder northern and western suburbs and perhaps later into the immediate metro area and locations farther east.
The duration of any snowfall will probably be limited to a few hours or less, and, importantly, temperatures are predicted to mostly remain above freezing — in the mid- to upper 30s (if a burst of heavier snow develops, temperatures could briefly dip to 32 to 34 degrees). In other words, accumulation prospects are pretty limited.
Any accumulation that does happen is most likely north and west of the Beltway and primarily on grassy surfaces, rather than roads. However, depending on the exact timing of the snow — which is still coming into focus — the snow could lower visibility and, if it falls heavily enough, create a bit of slushiness during the early part of the commute Wednesday in some areas (especially north and west of Washington).
Computer models suggest any precipitation should end rather quickly between sunrise and midmorning, with temperatures rising into the 40s Wednesday afternoon. Any snow that falls should melt pretty rapidly.
It’s also possible that this snow chance ends up fizzling out and that only rain falls, especially along and east of Interstate 95. Snow prospects will depend on cold air arriving quickly, before the precipitation departs.
“I think more often than not, the cold air at the surface comes in a little later than forecast by the models,” said Wes Junker, Capital Weather Gang’s winter weather expert.
Beware of model forecasts of snow accumulation that you may see online or on social media. They assume all snow that falls will stick, which it won’t with temperatures above freezing and a warm ground, and tend to change rain to snow faster than reality.
We’ll provide additional updates on this potential, brief bout of wintry weather in the coming days.