High Impact Winter Storm Wednesday Night-Thursday
A storm system forming in the Gulf of Mexico tonight will move east then northeast up the east coast as it rapidly intensifies. Snow will spread over the area Wednesday evening around 7-8PM as the storm approaches DC. Snow will continue through the night and could get very heavy early Thursday morning as intense snow bands rotate through the area. Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour and thunder-snow are possible in these bands. Now here is where the uncertainty comes in: at some point (probably Thursday morning) it is likely that snow will switch to sleet and maybe even rain, which would significantly reduce accumulations. Whether or not this happens depends on the storm track. If it tracks further west there would be mostly rain; if it goes off the coast, only a little sleet will mix in. Current models indicate that the storm will most likely turn to sleet and rain for several hours as warm air moves in. Precipitation likely will lighten up somewhat on Thursday, but another heavy thump of snow is possible Thursday afternoon as the comma head of the storm whips around. Precipitation will end around 6PM Thursday. Total accumulations will be around 8-12 inches in northern Montgomery County and 6-10 inches in southern Montgomery County. However, significant uncertainty exists as far as how much sleet and rain mix in Thursday morning and where the heaviest snow bands develop. There is significant boom/bust potential with this storm. Up to 16 inches of snow are possible if precipitation stays all snow and snow is heavier than anticipated, and as little as 2 inches are possible if there is an extended period of rain Thursday.
Winds will also increase Thursday to 20-25 MPH with gusts to 35MPH. This will create some blowing and drifting snow, but anything close to a blizzard is not expected. The wet heavy snow falling quickly combined with gusty wind will likely create scattered power outages. This storm will greatly impact the AM commute Thursday, and will likely also impact the PM commute. Travel is highly discouraged. Unless the storm takes a sudden shift, MCPS will very probably close on Thursday, and maybe also on Friday depending on the impacts of the storm. Maryland and Virginia have already declared states of emergency.
Article by Josh Karpatkin, MoCo Student staff meteorologist