The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Polite, powdery overnight snow drops 1 to 6 inches across D.C. area

A truck plows snow early Jan. 7 at a rest stop along Interstate 95 outside Dale City, Va. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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Unlike Monday’s cementlike pasting, which stranded hundreds of people on area roads and cut power to more than half a million customers, the light, fluffy snowfall before sunrise Friday was rather well-behaved.

About 1 to 6 inches fell across the region, with the highest totals in northern Maryland and northwestern Virginia and the smallest amounts in southern Maryland and north-central Virginia. Two to 4 inches were most common in the immediate Washington area. The pattern of snowfall amounts, increasing from southeast to northwest, was essentially the reverse of Monday’s storm.

The powdery flakes mostly fell between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. With few motorists on the roads, crews were able to keep main thoroughfares clear.

Although enough snow fell amid plunging temperatures to leave neighborhood roads slick and give area students another day off from school, few other significant disruptions were noted in the region.

Schools closed, roads slick as snow hits D.C. region for second time in a week

Amounts in detail

Snowfall totals generally ranged from 2 to 3 inches inside the Beltway and increased to 3 to 6 inches to the north and west. South of Prince William and Prince George’s counties, totals of 1 to 2 inches were most common.

Here are some reports, from most to least:

  • Frederick County: 5 to 6 inches (locally up to 8 inches)
  • Columbia: 4 to 5 inches
  • Northern Montgomery County: 4 to 5 inches
  • Loudoun County: 4 to 5 inches
  • Western Fairfax County: 4 to 5 inches
  • Dulles Airport: 4 inches
  • Southern Montgomery County: 3 to 4 inches
  • Eastern Fairfax County: 2 to 4 inches
  • Northwest Washington: 3 inches
  • BWI Marshall: 3 inches
  • Warrenton: 3 inches
  • Manassas: 3 inches
  • Falls Church: 3 inches
  • Alexandria: 2 to 3 inches
  • Reagan National Airport: 2.6 inches
  • Greenbelt: 2.5 inches
  • Dumfries: 2 inches
  • Indian Head (Charles County): 2 inches
  • Prince Frederick (Calvert County): 1.4 inches
  • Fredericksburg: 1 inch

In the mountains of eastern West Virginia, 6 to 12 inches of fresh powder was reported. Near Canaan Valley ski resort, 14.2 inches fell.

Snow-starved Mid-Atlantic ski areas set to open as fresh powder, cold air arrive

The 2.6 inches observed at Reagan National Airport brings this winter’s snowfall total there to 9.5 inches, all of it falling this month. This is the most snow it has seen in January since 2019, when 11.5 inches fell. The airport has almost doubled its average January snowfall of 4.9 inches.

If just four more inches falls this winter, National will reach its seasonal average, something it has done only once in the past five winters.

The airport has received almost as much snow this winter as Denver, which has tallied 10.1 inches so far.

The flakes fell on the 26th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1996, which unloaded 18 to 30 inches of snow across the region.

Most accumulation occurred between about 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. as a heavy band of snow, falling at a rate of about 1 to 2 inches per hour, developed. The snow was most intense just north and west of the District.

How was our forecast?

In the immediate Washington area, our forecast of 1 to 3 inches was right for many areas, with 2 to 3 inches most common. However, quite a few locations north and west of the Beltway were in the 3-to-5-inch range, entering boom territory.

Our forecast of 2 to 4 inches in our far northern suburbs was too low, as 4 to 6 inches was most common; these areas also reached our boom scenario totals.

Our prediction of 1 to 2 inches was spot on for our southern and southeastern suburbs.

It was as if our northern and southern areas traded places between early Friday’s and Monday’s snow events. Amounts exceeded forecasts to the north early Friday, while they topped predictions to the south on Monday.

Here’s what made Monday’s snowstorm so severe

Our forecast accumulations were a little too low in our northern and western areas for this event, mainly because the snow was fluffier than we anticipated. For a typical snow event, the equivalent of an inch of rain produces about 10 inches of snow. But for this event, snow-to-liquid ratios north of Washington were around 15 to 1, or even 20 to 1, which we didn’t account for well enough.

Snow photos and videos from readers

While the snow all fell before sunrise Friday, we have received quite a few nice images and scenes of the fresh coating from our readers. Here’s a sampling:

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