Snow Day

March 6
7:24  When I awoke at 5:00 I decided to check the progress of our ominously forecast late winter storm.  Looked like no precipitation in the air.  An inch or two of heavy, wet snow

Daffodils on the verge wait out the last gasp of winter.

Daffodils on the verge wait out the last gasp of winter.

had fallen.  Meteorologists said that the moisture content of this storm would be 8:1, eight inches of snow equaling one inch of rain.  The typical snowstorm is 12:1, half again drier.  Nothing had stuck on the sidewalks; the street was slush on the edges, bare in the middle where a plow had already come through.  That in itself is remarkable, as our street rarely gets plowed at all until the day after the storm.  Now that we’re out of bed for good we’ve checked, and the precipitation is rain.  That’s the reverse of the predicted progression from initial rain to all-day heavy snow.  Every secondary school and university in the area has closed, as has the Federal Government.  As I write I see a few snowflakes creeping back into the mixed precipitation.

8:40  About an hour ago the mixed precipitation was about half snow, half rain, and the wind was picking up.  Half an hour ago it was all snow, but light to moderate.  Now it’s moderate to heavy, and the wind is more persistently

The blog (on screen) and its subject, seen out my office window,

The blog (on screen) and its subject, seen out my office window,

from the northeast.  The flakes are small to medium in size (larger ones are obviously clusters of small flakes).  Our indoor-outdoor thermometer is reading 34.0˚, after a low of 27.0˚ (yesterday a.m.?) and a high yesterday of 54.5˚.  Even as I am writing this, the intensity of the snowfall and the wind have increased visibly.  Must be one of the “snow bands” that forecasters talk about.  This seems to have the makings of a real “nawth-eastah,” as they say where I come from.

9:58  Still snowing hard, with small to medium flakes.  The wind is out of the NE at 10, gusting to 28.  It is just beginning to make the road, driveway, and sidewalks white, apparently doing a lot of melting as it hits the ground.  The predicted accumulations for our area varied greatly, though all forecasters agreed that the depths would increase from east to west, with mostly rain on the Eastern Shore and the heaviest snow back in the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley.  Winchester, VA, home of the scions of the Byrd family, which first settled here in the 16th century, was supposed to be the epicenter of depth, with a foot or more foreseen.  Our area was pegged for anywhere from 3” to 10”.

1:21 p.m.  The last three hours have seen some vacillation between snow and a snow-rain mix.  Much of the time it’s been snowing moderately and blowing pretty hard.  But I know it’s not coming down that hard, having long ago developed my own visual standards to evaluate intensity.  I can see the trees in the nearby wooded neighborhood very clearly through the flakes.  I can see as far away as I could without any snow, with the farthest reaches of the tree line being only somewhat whited out.  In a good snowstorm I couldn’t see clearly across the street, and the house three back yards down would be practically invisible.  We noticed that the snowplows are our neighbors’ heavy-duty SUVs fitted with blades.  Guess they got so tired of not getting plowed they decided to do it themselves.  Outside the wind is nasty and cold, and I feel miserable out there.  Still, the impression is of cold water, not of ice and perilous wind chill factors.  The snow is melting only slightly more slowly than it is falling.  Sidewalks, driveway, and street are slushy.  Near the house and garage everything is melted.  On the grass the snow depth is about 2.5”; on hard surfaces like the tops of our trash barrels it’s almost but not quite 3”.  Currently the temperature is 32˚, the wind 15 gusting to 32 from the NNE.

5:02 p.m.  The storm has changed completely to a rainy and windy day.  There is probably about an inch of snow left on the ground, and it is dissipating further with the cold rain and pesky gusts, even though the highest velocity remains 32, unchanged from mid-day.  The

Storm winds down on Academy Street.  Was it for this that all public institutions and governments shut down?

Storm winds down on Academy Street. Was it for this that all public institutions and governments shut down?

snow began disappearing from the mix around 2:00, and shortly thereafter was gone.  Weather Doppler revealed only a couple of pockets of frozen precipitation in eastern Virginia; as the storm rumbles up the coast, losing intensity—the barometric pressure here is rising again—it is spreading pure rain and lacks the intense precipitation bands it had earlier.  We will be getting some backlash showers and winds until probably 8:00 or 9:00 this evening.  I should be able to navigate the W&OD Trail by tomorrow, or Friday at the latest.  Once again, a storm has been completely overhyped by the weather-terrorist meteorologists, seeking to garner viewers for their TV stations and visitors to their newspaper website (yes, singular—there’s only one real newspaper left in DC).  They wanted to call it “Snowquester.”  I’m going with “Slush to Judgment.”

11:02 p.m.  Watching Channel 9’s Topper Shutt (the name’s got to be real, because who’d think to make up a name like that) explain why the storm didn’t pan out.   He’s the same meteorologist who 24 hours ago had “shifted” the heavier snow bands eastward toward DC because to him, even as the storm was starting, everything seemed in place for a heavy snowfall in the western suburbs, to the tune of 6” to 10”.  Meteorologists these days get computer-generated projection models from various sources that analyze all the parameters and update the analyses as the weather systems evolve.  All the models were “converging,” or starting to agree, on the snowfall patterns.  To his credit, there were some high totals to our west—17” in Linden and 12” in Front Royal.  And in some situations just a few miles of distance can make a huge difference in the weather.  Yet when Topper was shifting his heavier precipitation bands eastward the temperature was about 40˚ here.  The man on the street would have said, “it’s not going to be cold enough to snow.”  The man on the street would have been right.  I am reminded of the farm girl in Dickens who knew all about horses because she had grown up with them but was chastised in school when she moved to the city because she could not properly define a horse as an “equine quadruped.”  Sometimes the best forecasting comes from looking out the window.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

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