As of 4:30 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013...
The Winter Season 2012-2013 has been pretty dry and drab so far, but that could change in less than 24 hours for the Washington, DC metro region.
The winter storm that The Weather Channel (TWC) has officially named, “Winter Storm Helen” (By the way, I’m not really a fan of naming winter storms, but as TWC states, it does make it easier to alert the public.) made its way across most of the mid-west and south leaving snow, sleet and freezing rain in its wake. Snow accumulation has been reported as far south as Dallas, Texas. Now, as this system clears the northeast only bringing rain to the mid-Atlantic region for the past few days except for parts of western Maryland and Pennsylvania where some snow and ice have been reported, a new system approaches and a Winter Storm Watch is now in effect. Take note, this is not a warning, but only a watch meaning meteorological conditions are favorable for the development of hazardous winter weather. If a winter storm were to occur the following weather can be expected:
West of the Washington, DC Metro Region:
On Thursday, snow is likely in the afternoon. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), accumulation totals will range between 3” – 5”, I would take my bets on the low end because surface temperatures are not expected to go below 32 degrees within the next 24 hours and day time highs will be near 38 degrees. Thursday night there is a greater chance for snow actually occurring as lows drop down into the upper 20s, but the National Weather Service is calling for less than one inch.
Washington, DC Metro Area:
A chance of a rain and snow mix is likely in the morning and turning over to snow in the afternoon. The chance for precipitation (whether rain or snow) is much higher, due to higher cloud moisture content. The high will be near 39 degrees, so rain/sleet is more likely than snow. If any snow were to occur, 3” – 5” is to be expected according to the NWS. Overnight temperatures will drop down to around 32 degrees, again in my opinion, offering better chances of snowfall occurring, 1” to 2” possible.
The determining factor in all of this is what happens in the gulf coast area. In the NWS Hydrometeorological Prediction Center short range forecast discussion they state that (summarized) snow will develop over parts of the interior central gulf coast that will become heavy snow over the southern Appalachians by Thursday afternoon and over parts of the central Appalachians by Thursday evening. Rain will also develop and it will become moderate to heavy at times. The most popular forecast models do agree that something is brewing down in the gulf coast region, but at present I remain skeptical of it getting here in the next 18 – 20 hours.
With all this said, I would not expect a day off on Thursday; at best we may get a delayed start to the work and school day on Friday. I believe that snow is not likely to occur until Thursday evening and that the Washington, DC metro region will get the most.
As always, you are advised to stay tuned to your local weather stations and to check www.weather.gov for the latest information on hazardous weather.