Monumental Snowfall in the Nation's Capital
February 10, 2010
Photographer: Jim Foster
Summary Author: Jim Foster
Deep, and crisp and even! A monumental snowstorm buried the Nation's Capital this past weekend, February 5 and 6, with up to 36 in (91 cm) of fresh snow in some jurisdictions. Nearly 28 in (71 cm) of snow was recorded in Silver Spring, Maryland, several miles north of Washington, D.C. The total snow depth here, including snow from earlier snowfalls, was approximately 31 in (79 cm). The yardstick at top left was poked into the snow pack the morning of the seventh.
Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware have been in the sweet spot of most of the east coast storms (nor'easters) that have roared up the Atlantic seaboard this winter. The polar jet stream has been in position to favor a storm track that moves up along the Southeast and Middle Atlantic Regions, drawing moisture from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike most years, these storms haven't plowed along the coast toward New England but have rather tarried off the Middle Atlantic Region (Cape Charles and Cape Hatteras) before heading out to sea. Consequently, several storms have dumped huge amounts of snow over areas that average less than 20 in (51 cm) of snow a year. Baltimore and Washington have recorded upwards of 60 in (152 cm) of snow so far this season -- the most ever recorded since records were first kept in the late 1880s. The blast of snow over the weekend resulted in the highest accumulations in the Washington area since the infamous Knickerbocker Storm of 1922. In Baltimore, an all-time record (at BWI Airport) 24.7 in (63 cm) was measured, and at Dulles Airport, about 30 mi (48 km) west of Washington 32.5 in (83 cm) of snow fell, crushing the previous record by 9 inches (23 cm).
This was more than just a sizeable snowfall, this was snow on steroids! And it was more than an inconvenience; it was, and has been, crippling. Trees, roofs and power lines are struggling to cope with copious snow loads. Despite the appreciated efforts of utility companies, schools and government offices are still closed, thousands of people are without power and public transportation has been seriously compromised. Nonetheless, there's plenty to admire and feel good about: snow draping off firs and pines, the contrast of the bright snow and the cerulean blue skies after the storm cleared, a cardinal on a snowy bow, neighbor helping neighbor, the sound of a shovel finally hitting asphalt. But what's this… the Middle Atlantic area is being battered by yet another major snowstorm. Un, un, uh!
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Washington, D.C. coordinates: 38.895111, -77.036667
Earth Observatory image: Heavy Snow around U.S. Capital