The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Region’s biggest snowstorm in three years ends, leaving more than 500K customers without power

Widespread amounts of 5 to 10 inches blanketed the area, with up to a foot south of Washington; another chance of snow looms Thursday night.

A winter storm dumped several inches of snow across the D.C. region on Jan. 3. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

* Snow hits D.C. region (local news) | Snow photos | Social media photos | School closings Tuesday *

Key points

  • Snow has ended across the region. Totals around the immediate area mostly ranged from 5 to 10 inches, with up to a foot in our far southern areas. Amounts in our northern and far western suburbs were less, around 2 to 5 inches.
  • Reagan National Airport’s 6.7 inches were the most from a snowstorm since Jan. 2019.
  • The heavy snow and gusty winds caused extensive tree damage and power outages affecting about a half-million customers in Virginia and Maryland, most numerous in north central Virginia. Even with the snow ending, new outages are possible due to gusty winds through the afternoon.
  • Slushy areas to refreeze Monday night with lows near 20 degrees; another chance of snow Thursday night

Updates

3:15 p.m. — The forecast looking ahead brings another snow chance Thursday night

While this snowstorm has ended, wintry weather is far from over this week. Low temperatures tonight will fall to around 20 degrees in many areas, with some locations even dipping into the teens. That means any wet or slushy areas will refreeze and we expect more school delays and closures Tuesday.

Believe it or not, we have a chance of more accumulating snow Thursday night. This is unlikely to rival today’s storm, but could produce a few inches in parts of the region depending on how it evolves. We’ll post a detailed outlook on that possibility tomorrow.

This update ends our coverage of today’s snowstorm. Thanks for following along and stay safe.

2:50 p.m. — Map of snow totals

The National Weather Service has a preliminary list and interactive map with snowfall totals across the region. Here’s a zoomed in snapshot of the amounts in our area:

Here are some key observations:

  • In the immediate D.C. area and to the east and northeast, amounts were mostly between 5 and 10 inches
  • Amounts increased to 6 to 12 inches south and southeast of the Beltway
  • West of Fairfax County and north of Rockville, amounts decreased to 2 to 5 inches
  • Little or no accumulating snow fell north (or west) of southern Frederick and southern Carroll counties.
  • Airport totals: Reagan National — 6.7 inches; Dulles 3.9 inches; BWI Marshall — 6.8 inches
  • Highest total? Glendie in Stafford County with 13.4 inches

Our next and final update, coming around 3:15 p.m., will preview the forecast for the next few days.

2:15 p.m. — Winter storm warning discontinued as snow ends

Except for far Southern Maryland, radar shows all the snow has ended in the region and the winter storm warning has been discontinued.

We’ll post two more updates in the next hour rounding up snowfall totals and previewing the forecast ahead.

1:25 p.m. — Snow is ending in immediate area. 6.7 inches posted at Reagan National Airport, most since 2019.

Radar shows snow has ended along and west of Interstate 95 and is rapidly tapering off to the east. The only remaining accumulating snow is occurring in southern Maryland where it should gradually ease over the next couple of hours.

Reagan National Airport checked in with 6.7 inches of snow as of 12:45 p.m., according to observer Mark Richards. That is the most snow to fall in a single storm since Jan. 13, 2019, when the airport posted 10.3 inches.

While the snow is ending, the gusty winds are not. And with the snow caked to trees and power lines, new outages are possible until winds ease this evening and tonight. Gusts to 20 to 30 mph remain possible through the afternoon.

Here are some updated power outage numbers:

  • In Virginia, 430,000 customers are out statewide, with the greatest concentration in central and northern Virginia. Stafford County has 45,000 customers out, Fairfax County 40,000 and Prince William 27,000.
  • In Maryland, 70,000 customers are out statewide, with the greatest concentration in southern Maryland. Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties each have between 10,000-15,000 customers out.

12:35 p.m. — Jackpot snows hit Interstate 95 corridor

A nearly stationary band of heavy snow has focused over the I-95 corridor since midmorning with snowfall totals entering “boom” territory above predicted levels. Many locations in the immediate area now have 5 to 10 inches of snow (compared to predictions of 4 to 8 inches) with another inch or two possible. Reports of double digit totals are increasing in north central Virginia and southern Maryland.

Typically, in Mid-Atlantic storms, the heaviest snow falls north and northwest of I-95. In this event, it’s been the opposite. In Frederick, Md., there’s been no accumulation.

Here are some select totals through 12:30 p.m.:

  • Fredericksburg: 12 inches
  • Burke: 11 inches
  • Springfield: 10-11 inches
  • Manassas: 10.5 inches
  • La Plata: 10 inches
  • Woodbridge: 10 inches
  • Fairfax: 9 inches
  • SE Washington: 9 inches
  • Baileys Crossroads: 9 inches
  • Vienna: 9 inches
  • Annandale: 8 inches
  • Annapolis: 7 to 9 inches
  • Arlington: 6 to 9 inches
  • Aspen Hill: 7.5 inches
  • NW Washington: 7 inches
  • Columbia: 6 inches
  • Damascus: 2 inches

11:40 a.m. — Powerful storm continues to unload heavy snowfall, cut power

As apparent by the above satellite image, this storm is a powerhouse. The combination of heavy snow and strong winds continues to generate downed trees and power outages across the region.

For the past two hours, Reagan National Airport has reported heavy snow and winds gusting from 30 to 40 mph, with a visibilities of just 1/2 to 1/8 miles; these are close to blizzard conditions. Temperatures have also fallen to 30 degrees and a number of places are now down into the upper 20s.

Snow totals continue to climb with most areas in the immediate area with at least 4 to 8 inches. To the south, amounts have even eclipsed 10 inches in parts of Stafford County. Radar shows a persistent band of heavy snow along the Interstate 95 corridor with a sharp cutoff in the snow west of Fairfax County and central Montgomery County, where accumulating snow has mostly ended. This snow along I-95 will continue for 2 to 3 more hours.

Power outages numbers are escalating:

  • About 50,000 customers are without power in Maryland, mostly in Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties.
  • Nearly 350,000 customers are without power in Virginia, with the greatest concentration in north central Virginia, including Stafford and Culpeper counties. Nearly 25,000 customers are without power in Fairfax County.

10:45 a.m. — Snow totals up to 8 inches south of D.C., generally 3-6 inches in immediate area. A bit more coming.

We’re nearing the end of the period of heaviest snow but moderate, accumulating snow is set to continue for another few hours. Short-range models show the potential for another 2 to 3 inches in the immediate area until the snow winds down between 2 and 3 p.m. Parts of extreme southern Maryland and the Delmarva may have another 4 to 5 inches before the storm winds down there late this afternoon and early this evening.

Here are a few select snowfall totals:

  • Columbia: 3 inches
  • Herndon: 3-4 inches
  • Arlington: 4 inches
  • Silver Spring: 4-5 inches
  • Manassas: 5 inches
  • Capitol Hill: 5 inches
  • Alexandria: 5-6 inches
  • Springfield: 6 inches
  • Chantilly: 6-7 inches
  • Warrenton: 6-7 inches

In Southern Maryland and north central Virginia, totals generally range from 6 to 8 inches.

10:10 a.m. — Heavy, wet snow causing mounting power outages in north central Virginia, Southern Maryland and the District

Some of the heaviest snow has fallen in the zone between Richmond and Dale City, with amounts already around 6 to 8 inches. The weight of the snow on trees and power lines along with gusty winds is causing mounting power outages. Poweroutage.us reports about 15,000 customers without power in Culpeper County and nearly 25,000 customers in the dark in Stafford County. Statewide, nearly 180,000 customers are without power.

Outages are also starting to mount in Southern Maryland (about 10,000 customers without power) and even in the District (25,000 customers without power).

9:35 a.m. — Storm near peak, with very heavy snow falling

Snow is walloping the D.C. area, falling at rates of one to two inches per hour. The visibility has dropped below half a mile and winds are gusting to 20 to 30 mph.

Based on reports from readers and the National Weather Service, snowfall amounts generally range from about 2 to 5 inches, with the highest totals south and southeast of Washington. Here are a few select totals:

  • Rockville: 2 inches
  • Reston: 2 inches
  • Northwest Washington: 2.5-3 inches
  • Dumfries: 3 inches
  • Falls Church: 3 inches
  • Annapolis: 3-4 inches
  • Alexandria: 4-5 inches
  • Springfield: 5 inches
  • Waldorf: 5 inches

8:45 a.m. — Trouble on the roads

We’re seeing increasing reports of very slow going on the roads and, in some areas, stopped traffic. We continue to advise folks to stay home for the next few hours as snow accumulates at a rapid clip on all surfaces.

Some photos:

8:25 a.m. — Snow falling heavily, roads snow-covered

The Washington region has seen a dramatic change in scene over the past hour as moderate to heavy snow is coating all surfaces, including roads. Many areas now have an inch or two on the ground and we should see several more inches fall over the next few hours.

Temperatures in most spots have fallen to 31 or 32 degrees with the increase in snowfall intensity.

It’s not only snowy but also windy. Reagan National Airport has clocked gusts from 25 to 30 mph in moderate to heavy snow in the past half-hour with visibility down to one-quarter to one-half mile.

Your best bet for the next few hours? Stay off the roads.

7:40 a.m. — Snow becoming heavy, starting to stick to road surfaces

This storm is starting to hit its stride with snow increasing in intensity over the region. The snow is moderate inside the Beltway but heavy just to the south. Radar indicates some of the heaviest snow in the zone between Richmond and Fredericksburg, where it is likely falling at one to two inches per hour.

We will see some of these heavy snowfall rates expand north — about as far as the Beltway — over the next couple of hours. Already, due to the increased snowfall clip, paved surfaces are starting to become covered in the District, Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.

We’ve even had our first report of thundersnow in Southern Maryland, near Lusby. Thundersnow will be possible in the region, especially from the District south over the next few hours.

7 a.m. — Awaiting the heavier snow, arriving over next one to two hours

Light to moderate snow continues falling, mostly accumulating to grassy areas. Air and ground temperatures, from 32 to 34 degrees, are still a bit too high for much accumulation on paved surfaces.

But over the next one to two hours, snowfall will increase in intensity from southwest to northeast causing temperatures to drop and this will result in deteriorating travel conditions and roads becoming snow-covered.

You can get a sense of what this storm is capable of by looking toward the southwest.

6:20 a.m. — Storm is just getting started; potential for very heavy snow and hazardous travel between 8 and 11 a.m.

A wet snow continues to fall with temperatures at or a little above freezing (most locations reporting 32-34 degrees). Most places have seen accumulation between a coating to an inch but mainly on grassy areas and car tops. Aside from a bit of slush, most pavements are still just wet.

But the really significant snow isn’t expected to develop until after 7 a.m. We are particularly concerned about the potential for very heavy snow between about 8 and 11 a.m. Models show the potential for snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches in an hour. Snowfall of this intensity will making driving extremely difficult and hazardous. Paved surfaces will rapidly become snow-covered. We do not recommend travel during this time.

5:45 a.m. — Snow has rapidly developed over last hour, accumulation forecast bumped up

Between about 3:30 and 5 a.m., many places in the immediate Washington region saw rain change to snow and it is snowing steadily across most of the region (there is still some rain in our far southern suburbs which should transition to snow shortly). The snow has begun to stick to grassy areas with even a bit of slush starting to build up on colder paved surfaces.

Conditions will rapidly deteriorate over the next few hours as snow continues and temperatures, currently 32 to 34 degrees, drop a few more degrees.

Based on the latest models and radar presentation, we bumped up snowfall totals one last time and now expect 4 to 8 inches in the immediate area and 5 to 10 inches just to the south by the time the snow ends this afternoon. Locally higher amounts cannot be ruled out. See our updated map below.

Original forecast from 5 a.m.

Today’s daily digit

A somewhat subjective rating of the day’s weather, on a scale of 0 to 10.

5/10: The snow is pretty to look at but will inconvenience many.

Express forecast

  • Today: Heavy snow in the morning, tapering off in the afternoon. Highs: 30 to 35.
  • Tonight: Clearing and very cold. Lows: 16 to 24.
  • Tomorrow: Mostly sunny. Highs: Near 35.

Forecast in detail

Heavy snow is possible for a time this morning as a strong winter storm takes a nearly ideal track to paste the region. The snow may make travel difficult and hazardous, covering roads and dropping visibility to less than a quarter of a mile. We’ll enjoy a couple of sunny but cold days in the storm’s wake through midweek before another chance of snow, ice or rain Thursday night.

Today (Monday): Snow, heavy at times, is expected this morning — some sleet could mix with the snow south and southeast of the District. This storm is a fast mover, so the snow should taper off by early to midafternoon in the immediate area and mid- to late afternoon in our eastern areas. Accumulation of 4 to 8 inches is most probable in the immediate area, but 5 to 10 inches could fall in our southern areas. Locally, heavier “boom” amounts are possible. Snow amounts will decrease quickly north of the Beltway and may cut off abruptly toward northern Maryland. Temperatures should spend much of the day in the upper 20s and low 30s, and it feels colder, with winds from the north at 10 to 20 mph gusting up to 25 to 35 mph. Confidence: Medium

Tonight: Skies clear, and it’s very cold. Lows are within a few degrees of 20 in most spots, with quite a few areas dipping into the teens. This will cause any slushy spots to refreeze overnight. Winds are light from the northwest. Confidence: Medium-High

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest weather updates. Keep reading for the forecast through the weekend …

Tomorrow (Tuesday): For the first time in days, we’ll see abundant sunshine. But it’s a cold one, with highs only near 35 in most spots. Winds are light. Confidence: Medium-High

Tomorrow night: Mostly clear and cold. Lows range from 15 to 20 in our colder areas to 20 to 25 downtown. Confidence: Medium-High

A look ahead

Temperatures return closer to normal on Wednesday and Thursday, with highs into the low 40s or so; lows Wednesday night range from 25 to 30. Skies both days are partly sunny for the most part before clouding over late Thursday. Confidence: Medium-High

Our next storm system approaches Thursday night, bringing a chance of snow, a wintry mix and/or rain. This doesn’t look like a big storm, and the details are fuzzy, but it bears watching. Lows are probably around 30. It turns blustery and cold Friday, with highs in the 30s. Confidence: Low-Medium

The weekend starts off with a cold Saturday, with morning lows near 20 and afternoon highs in the 30s, but there should be at least partial sun. Increasing clouds and not as cold Saturday night into Sunday, with lows near 30 and afternoon highs 45 to 50 when there could be a few rain showers. Confidence: Medium

Snow potential index

A daily assessment of the potential for at least 1 inch of snow in the next week, on a 0-10 scale.

9/10 (): It’s happening (Monday), and there’s another chance Thursday night.

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