Snow Coming?

Photo by PoPville flickr member JustifiedAncient

Excitement is starting to build about the possibility in my snow loving house. The Post’s Capital Weather Gang report:

The compact storm will have plenty of moisture with it. The big questions for our area are: 1) how far north will the precipitation shield get? and 2) will it extend far enough north to deliver moderate to heavy snow? If the latter occurs, accumulating snow becomes likely and roads during Thurday afternoon’s rush hour could become slick and hazardous.

From AlertDC:

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 17, 2012, although the federal government will be OPEN, employees of federal agencies in the Washington, DC area will have the OPTION for UNSCHEDULED LEAVE or UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK.

This is due to the Winter Storm Watch that the National Weather Service has issued for the DC Metro Area for tomorrow. Anywhere from 1-5″ of snow are expected tomorrow, primarily in the afternoon and early evening. Please stay tuned into TV, radio, or Alert DC for further updates, as this forecast is expected to be fine-tuned tonight and tomorrow morning, and it is possible that the federal government could close early tomorrow if necessary.

From DPW:

The DC Snow Team (Department of Public Works and District Department of Transportation) goes into a full deployment Thursday, January 17 with more than 200 plows on their routes by 9 am. Weather forecasters predict the storm will start as a rain/snow event then change to all snow in the afternoon. Possibly 3 to 5 inches of wet snow can accumulate before the storm ends around midnight. The high temperature is expected to be 38F and the low 31F and Friday is expected to be sunny with a high of 37F and a low of 29F.

“We want people to be aware that the change to snow probably will occur just before the afternoon rush hour,” said DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr. “Everyone should be aware of the conditions and listen to the media for messages that might be issued by the federal and local governments regarding when to report to work and possible closures.”

To track the plows, go to and click on

Snow Safety and Preparedness Tips: People driving, walking or bicycling around the District should travel cautiously. Property owners are asked to pre-treat their sidewalks with abrasives and remove snow within 24 hours of the end of the storm, and assist their elderly or disabled neighbors with clearing their sidewalks. Also, for our drivers’ safety and yours, “Don’t crowd the plow.” Residents are encouraged to go to for updates before, during and after snowstorms, and for tips to get one’s home and family prepared for inclement weather. Residents also may sign up at to receive emergency alerts and notifications from Alert DC.

16 Comment

  • I left for work around 6:15 today and it felt way too warm for snow. This is the warmest morning this week since Monday.


      Why does it actually get warmer when it snows?

      Snowing does not cause the warmth, the relative warmth causes the snow.

      During very cold weather the capacity of the air to contain moisture is greatly reduced. What water vapor remains is deposited as frost. At the same time, evaporation is reduced and therefore air humidity remains low. In these conditions snow cannot form.

      Warmer air can hold more moisture before saturation point is reached and the water vapor begins to condense out. So when warmer air moves into cooler areas, not only do we feel the increase in temperature, but the excess vapor precipitates as snow.

  • I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • As someone originally from the Midwest, I find it crazy that employees were have the option of unscheduled leave for a slight possibility of snow in the late afternoon/early evening. If (and I think that’s a very big if) the snow actually appears, early release makes much more sense than giving folks the option to stay home when it’s the first dry morning all week.

    • I think the real danger is how DC drivers are going to freak out over even the possibility of snow. I saw two accidents last year the one night we got .25″ of snow.

      I’m from the Midwest too, and I just think this is hilarious.

    • Well, given the Great Early Release Fiasco of 2011 (, it might not be as crazy as it sounds. Federal government has been pushing telework, so not everyone will be on leave. (All that said, I’m in the office despite the option to telework.)

      • SouthwestDC

        That was a nightmare– it took me 8 hours to get home that night and I only lived 12 miles away. I’m so happy that I live within walking distance of work these days.

    • SouthwestDC

      It’s dry here in DC, but the DC commuting region is huge and some areas have already had winter precipitation this morning (e.g. according to a coworker there was sleet in Fredericksburg).

    • It’s a problem here because:
      1.) unlike the midwest or upstate NY, we don’t have enough infrastructure (plows, tons of salt/sand, & trained operators) to properly handle and remove the snow;
      2.) people don’t have a lot of experience driving in snow, which is quite difficult to do if you never grew up driving in it;
      3.) Our buildings, power lines, drainage systems, and other utilities are not built to withstand large amounts of snow (or the melting slush).

      I know folks from “other places” where they get a lot of snow like to rag on DC about our response to the small amounts we get.

      What it comes down to is cost-benefit analysis. We’d be able to handle the snow better if we invested the same amount of money in snow removal infrastructure and weather-proofing as place like the Midwest or upstate NY. But it’s not worth the money for the few times per year we get snow. So we need to do things, like release people early from work and have telecommuting, to ensure we don’t end up with bigger problems, such as large pile-up accidents or people being stranded on public transport due to power failures.

      • I would also add that we have greater population density than your typical Midwestern town, and we don’t have the transit infrastructure to support it. Even on a good day the roads heading out to the suburbs are clogged with traffic, that can get exponentially worse if there are a few weather-related accidents blocking lanes. It’s something to be genuinely concerned about if you rely on these roads to get home, and it hampers the ability of emergency response teams to effectively plow roads and restore power.

        • Chicago is densely populated and manages to handle the snow just fine. However, they spend a much larger portion of their budget on snow removal because of the large economic returns on that investment. The DC metro area sees little economic return on spending Chicago-levels on snow removal and weatherproofing. It just doesn’t make sense for us, considering we get so little snow.

          But I totally hear you on the traffic situation. It doesn’t help that virtually our entire region is reliant on only three roads to get in/out of the metro center. That has the possibility of creating massive bottle necks, since there are few alternative routes.

          • Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think in Chicago you have quite as many people with multihour driving commutes as you do here.

    • ah

      It’s unscheduled leave! Who cares – it comes out of their leave if they take it.

      And bear in mind that the forecast is for more snow to the south of the city, where a number of federal workers (especially DoD/Pentagon types) live, and they may legitimately be worried about the return end of their commute.

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