National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

... Winter Snow and Cold...

 

Table of Contents

 


 

Picture taken outside the Sterling, VA National Weather Service Forecast Office on the morning of the 10 February 2010 blizzard.

 

Nor'easters

The most powerful storms to impact the Mid-Atlantic Region in winter are "Nor'easters." Tracking along the coast, these storms cause strong northeast winds which create wind and water damage sometimes similar to category one hurricanes. The strong winds drive large waves onshore, eroding beaches and flooding shorelines. Cold high pressure is usually centered over Quebec or northern New England, providing a rich source of cold, dry air into the Mid Atlantic states. Heavy snowfall, sleet, and wind seriously hamper travel, and cause power outages. 

Forecasting these storms and what weather the region will receive can be difficult. The heaviest snow generally occurs in a band around 50 miles wide. To the east of that heavy snow, it changes to a mixture of ice and then rain. To the west of the band, snowfall amounts are significantly less. That means that by just moving the center of the storm 50 miles to the east or west will completely change the type and severity of the weather received.

 


Top 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfalls

*NOTES*

A 'day' is defined as a calendar day (midnight to midnight LST), which is consistent with first-order climate records. Measurable snowfall (at least 0.1 inches) had to fall on 2 (3) consecutive days in order for it to count as a 2 (3)-day snowfall total. Therefore, it may be possible for a 2-day extreme to be greater than a 3-day extreme (e.g., the 7th highest snowfall at DC was 16.0 inches for a 2-day snowfall total and only 9.9 inches for a 3-day snowfall total) as it was less common to observe measurable snowfall for three consecutive days than for two consecutive days.

Data are unofficial. Please contact the National Climatic Data Center for official data. Official snowfall records date back to: 1884 for DC, 1892 for Baltimore and 1962 for Dulles.


The following table and chart ranks the top 1-3 day snowfalls on record for all three climate sites. The listings below only includes an overlapping date once. For example at Washington DC: Since the top 2-Day total of 26.0 inches on Jan 27-28, 1922 contain overlapping dates with the top 3-Day total of 28.0 inches on Jan 27-29, 1922, only the higher 3-day total was included in this list.

Top Snowfall Within 3-Day Period

 

Washington D.C.

(1884-2010)

Baltimore, MD

(1892-2010)

Dulles, VA

(1962-2010)
 
1-3 Day Total
Date
1-3 Day Total
Date
1-3 Day Total
Date
1)
28.0
Jan 27-29, 1922
26.8
Feb 16-18, 2003
32.4
Feb 5-6, 2010
2)
20.0
Feb 12-14, 1899
26.6
Jan 7-9, 1996
24.6
Jan 6-8, 1996
3)
18.7
Feb 18-19, 1979
26.5
Jan 27-29, 1922
22.8
Feb 10-11, 1983
4)
17.8
Feb 5-6, 2010
25.0
Feb 5-6, 2010
21.7
Feb 15-17, 2003
5)
17.3
Jan 7-9, 1996
22.8
Feb 11, 1983
18.0
Dec 18-19, 2009
6)
16.6
Feb 10-11, 1983
22.0
Mar 28-29, 1942
16.3
Feb 18-19, 1979
7)
16.4
Dec 18-19, 2009
21.3
Feb 12-14, 1899
15.4
Dec 30, 1970-Jan 1, 1971
8)
16.4
Feb 16-18, 2003
20.0
Feb 18-19, 1979
14.1
Mar 13-14, 1993
9)
14.4
Feb 15-16, 1958
19.5
Feb 9-10, 2010
12.1
Dec 25-26, 1969
10)
14.4
Feb 7, 1936
18.0
Dec 18-19, 2009
12.0
Feb 22-23, 1987


The following tables and figures in this section show the biggest 1-, 2- and 3-day snowfall totals on record for each site- Washington D.C., Baltimore, MD, and Dulles VA.

In each table- Click on the date of each snowstorm to access links to daily weather maps. Viewing the daily weather maps for snowstorms prior to 2003 requires you to download the freeDJVU Browser Plugin.

 

Washington DC

Top Ten 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfall Totals (inches) at Washington DC

(Snowfall record dates back to 1884)

[For 2 (3) day records, it must have snowed all 2 (3) days]

 
3-Day
Date
2-Day
Date
1-Day
Date
1)
28.0
26.0
21.0
2)
20.0
19.0
16.4
3)
17.3
18.7
15.0
4)
16.4
17.8
14.4
5)
14.3
16.6
14.0
6)
12.7
16.4
13.3
7)
9.9
16.0
13.0
8)
9.0
15.4
12.9
9)
8.3
14.4
12.0
10)
8.0
14.0
12.0


 

Baltimore

Top Ten 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfall Totals (inches) at Baltimore, MD

(Snowfall record dates back to 1892)

[For 2 (3) day records, it must have snowed all 2 (3) days]
 
3-Day
Date
2-Day
Date
1-Day
Date
1)
26.8
26.3
23.3
2)
26.6
25.0
22.8
3)
26.5
24.4
21.9
4)
21.3
22.5
21.8
5)
12.0
22.0
17.0
6)
10.8
20.3
16.4
7)
10.5
20.0
16.0
8)
10.5
19.5
15.8
9)
10.3
18.0
15.5
10)
10.1
15.5
15.5


 

Dulles

Top Ten 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfall Totals (inches) at Dulles, VA

(Snowfall record dates back to 1962)

[For 2 (3) day records, it must have snowed all 2 (3) days]

 
3-Day
Date
2-Day
Date
1-Day
Date
1)
24.6
32.4
22.5
2)
21.7
23.2
19.8
3)
7.8
22.8
17.5
4)
7.6
20.1
16.0
5)
6.4
18.0
15.9
6)
6.4
16.3
14.9
7)
6.2
15.4
13.9
8)
5.6
14.1
13.8
9)
5.5
12.1
11.4
10)
4.8
12.0
11.1

 

 

Monthly Snowfall

 

Snowiest Month Ever
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
35.2"
Feb 1899
50.9"
Feb 2010
46.1"
Feb 2010

 

Most Snow by Month

November
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
11.5"
1987
9.7"
1898
11.4"
1967
7.3"
1938
8.5"
1938
5.8"
1968
6.9"
1967
8.4"
1967
5.5"
1987
6.7"
1953
6.0"
1987
4.0"
1978
4.8"
1898
5.9"
1953
3.6"
1995
December
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
16.6"
2009
20.4"
1966
24.2"
1966
16.2"
1962
20.1"
2009
21.4"
2009
16.1"
1966
17.1"
1904
15.9"
1904
14.5"
1932
15.6"
1960
14.3"
1960
13.2"
1904,1945
14.7"
1932
11.9"
1932
January
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
31.5"
1922
32.6"
1996
30.9"
1996
25.1"
1918
31.3"
1922
28.8"
1987
24.4"
1935
25.1"
1987
21.4"
2000
23.8"
1996
23.1"
2000
19.0"
1966
21.3"
1966
21.9"
1918
14.3"
1982
February
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
35.2"
1899
50.0"
2010
46.1"
2010
32.1"
2010
40.5"
2003
34.9"
2003
30.6"
1979
33.9"
1899
27.6"
1979
28.7"
2003
33.1"
1979
27.2"
1983
21.0"
1983
27.2"
1983
18.0"
1967
March
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
19.3"
1914
25.6"
1892
15.5"
1993
17.1"
1960
22.2"
1942
14.6"
1999
17.0"
1891
21.6"
1960
10.8"
1984
15.5"
1900
14.7"
1943
10.4"
1969
11.5"
1942
14.3"
1937
10.3"
1978
April
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
5.5"
1924
9.4"
1924
4.0"
1990
4.0"
1889
5.0"
1894
2.6"
1982
3.5"
1915
5.0"
1916
2.5"
1996
3.0"
1918
4.5"
1915
1.0"
1973
2.0"
1894
3.0"
1917
0.6"
1964


Seasonal Snowfall

 

Highest Seasonal (July 1 - June 30) Snowfall
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
56.1"

2009-10

77.0"
2009-10
73.2"
2009-10
54.4"

1898-99

62.5"
1995-96
61.9"
1995-96
46.0"

1995-96

58.1"
2002-03
50.1"
2002-03
44.5"

1921-22

51.8"
1963-64
44.6"
1963-64
41.7"

1891-92

51.1"

1898-99

44.4"
1966-67

 

Lowest Seasonal (July 1 - June 30) Snowfall
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
0.1"

1997-98

0.7"
1949-50
2.2"
1972-73
0.1"

1972-73

1.2"
1972-73
2.6"
2001-02
2.2"

1975-76

2.3"
2001-02
4.4"
1980-81
2.5"

1930-31

3.2"
1997-98
5.9"
1997-98
3.2"

2001-02

4.0"

1918-19, 1958-59

6.5"
2007-08


Other Snowfall Stats

 

1971-2000 Normal Seasonal (July 1 - June 30) Snowfall
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
15.2"
18.2"
21.2"

 

Earliest Measurable Snowfall
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
0.3"
Oct 10, 1979
0.3"
Oct 10, 1979
1.3"
Oct 10, 1979

 

Latest Measurable Snowfall
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
0.5"
Apr 28, 1898
0.1"
Apr 28, 1898
1.0"
Apr 12, 1973

Daily Frequency of Snowfall (in Days Per Year)
 
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
≥ 1"
5.4
5.8
5.9
≥ 2"
3.3
3.8
3.9
≥ 4"
1.4
1.7
2.0
≥ 6"
0.6 (3 in 5 years)
0.8 (4 in 5 years)
0.9 (9 in 10 years)
≥ 8"
0.3 (3 in 10 years)
0.4 (2 in 5 years)
0.4 (2 in 5 years)
≥ 10"
0.2 (1 in 5 years)
0.2 (1 in 5 years)
0.3 (3 in 10 years)

 

≥ 12" Snowfalls within a 3-Day Period
 
DC (since 1884)
Baltimore (since 1892)
Dulles (since 1962)
Number of events
16
19
10
Frequency
0.12 (1 in 8 years)
0.16 (1 in 6 years)
0.21 (1 in 5 years)

In the greater DC area, there were no  ≥ 8" snowfalls between 1900-08, '09-17, '42-57, '67-78, and '88-95.

DC has reported one   24"snowfall in its history - the "Knickerbocker Storm" of Jan 27-28, 1922. During this storm the weight of the snow caused the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater in DC to collapse, killing 98 people and injuring 133.

 


Ice Storms

 

Because of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream just off our eastern shore, it is typical for the rain-snow line to right across Baltimore and Washington. When a storm strikes, southeast of the city often sees rain or a mixture of snow and ice turning to rain and areas to the northwest of the city typically gets more snow, sometimes mixing with ice (sleet and freezing rain). A total ice storm, however, is much less common. February 1994 proved that this region can get big ice storms. Ice storms are more likely to happen in January or February than in December or March. An essential component of an ice storm is for sub freezing air to be trapped at the surface, and this is more common during mid winter.

The winter of 1993-1994 was one of the iciest winters on record. Repeated storms from January into early March produced between 19 and 23 days of icy precipitation over greater metropolitan area. The worst storm struck on February 10-11, 1994 just from Fredericksburg into Southern Maryland. Freezing rain caused a thick glaze of ice across trees, power and phone lines and roads. Travel was extremely hazardous. Trees and utility lines fell under the weight of the ice. Some people were left without power and heat for up to two weeks due to the extent of the damage. This storm warranted a Presidential Disaster declaration for a swath of devastation from ice that stretched from Tennessee to Delaware. Damage to Maryland was estimated at over $20 million.

In February 1998, an ice storm hit Skyline Drive. Up to five inches of ice accumulated. So many trees came down that Shenandoah National Park had to be closed for up to two months to clear the debris!

 


Sub-Zero Days

Most Recent Sub-Zero Days
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
-4   1/19/1994
-1   2/5/1996
-9   2/6/1996*

 *Dulles reached zero on 1/17/2009.

 

Number of Sub-Zero Days from 1960-2010
DC
Baltimore
Dulles
4
20
56*

 *Dulles records from 1962-2010, no sub-zero temperatures since 1996.