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Unprecedented Quiet Start to Tornado Season

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 05:40:00 EST
Jacqui Jeras

Zero. None. Nada.  That's how many tornadoes have been recorded in the United States so far this March.

Preliminary Tornado Count 2015

March tends to be a busy time for severe weather forecasters, but so far not only have there been no tornadoes this month, there hasn't even been a watch issued.  According to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Greg Carbin at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK where watches are issued, it is unprecedented.

Source: Storm Prediction Center

Carbin says this has never happened since the Storm Prediction Center has been keeping records dating back to 1970.  Typically there will have been dozens by this time of the year.  On average, 130 tornadoes are recorded from January through mid to late March. This year there are 28 preliminary reports from January and February combined. That's 10 percent of average.

U.S. Tornado Trends

Most severe weather this time of the year happens in the south. But, tornadoes can and have occurred in any month of the year in Virginia and Maryland. 

March Severe Weather Probabilities

Why has there been such a lack of tornadoes?  You can thank the chilly temperatures in the east for one thing.  We've had a persistent pattern that has not allowed much moisture, heat or instability from the south to clash with cooler arctic air from the north. 

On average Virginia will see 18 tornadoes a year and Maryland will experience 10.  Most of those tornadoes occur between April and September. 

Tornado Climatology by State

Will the quiet start to the season continue?  Perhaps for at least the short term. cooler than average temperatures are expected to continue in the east into early April. However, weather patterns can change quickly. April and May are typically the busiest months of the year for tornadoes. Just because it's quiet now, doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a correlation of low tornado counts through the end of June.  In fact, the Storm Prediction Center has issued a slight risk of severe storms for both Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Severe Weather Outlook Tuesday

While we're not expecting any severe storms in the D.C. region this week, we could hear a few rumbles of thunder on Thursday and there could be some gusty winds with those storms. 

Dusting of snow possible for D.C. region on Tuesday morning

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:21:37 EST
Alex Liggitt

Snow showers and flurries possible overnight into Tuesday AM

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:06:00 EST
Alex Liggitt

Snow fell in parts of the Midwest this morning and will continue to move to the south and east this evening into tonight. Early tomorrow morning, the weak disturbance will move into the D.C. area bringing the chance for some light snow showers or flurries. Here's more on what you can expect.

The system is currently moving out of Indiana and into the Ohio Valley. Areas such as Chicago picked up 1 to 5 inches of snow but the disturbance will continue to move into areas of dry air as it moves south and west towards the Mid Atlantic. The dry air it will encounter will act as a hindrance, evaporating much of the snow before it makes to the surface.

Stormscan showing snow entering the Ohio Valley this afternoon

Clouds will increase tonight but you should begin to see some clouds increasing on the horizon at sunset. Skies will be cloudy overnight and snow showers will move into the Appalachian Mountains around midnight. It will take areas east of the mountains longer to saturate, so many locations across the D.C. area won't even see any snow, but locations north and west will saturate faster and will have the chance for some light snow.

Forecast low temperatures Tuesday morning

Temperatures will be below freezing in the outlying suburbs west of D.C. and near or slightly above freezing in the D.C. Metro. Road temperatures should stay above freezing for the most part but some locations west of the Blue Ridge may experience a dusting IF snow falls heavy enough. The best chance for this would be in Washington County, MD, the Panhandle of VA and into the Shenandoah Valley in VA on lesser traveled roadways.

Potential Snowfall Accumulations (On the grass!)

While this is strictly model output, I do think there is the potential for a dusting in a few spots north and west of D.C. Tuesday morning. This will not be a big deal for the morning rush hour but it will definitely be interesting to see after the Vernal Equinox!

Just to remind you, March 25th of 2014 featured 1.7 inches of snow at Reagan National and 3.8 inches of snow at Dulles Airport, so it could be worse.

First day of spring brings snow across the D.C. region

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:21:19 EST
The Associated Press, John Gonzalez, ABC 7 News

WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - It may be the first day of spring, but the mid-Atlantic region received another round of winter weather.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories in effect through Friday afternoon from western Maryland to some D.C. suburbs.

A winter storm warning was in effect for Washington and Allegany counties in Maryland until 2 p.m., when the snow was expected to turn to rain.

The weather service says snow accumulation ranged from a trace near the nation's capital to 5 1/2 inches in Hagerstown, Md. and 6 inches in the college town of Frostburg, Md.

A few school systems in the region delayed openings or closed for the day.

Spring Has Sprung: The Vernal Equinox Friday

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 04:45:00 EST
Eileen Whelan

It's here!  Spring!  Astronomical spring arrives on Friday at 6:45pm, the vernal equinox.

And how welcome the season is after such a cold and snowy February. Unfortunately, Spring doesn't necessarily bring with it milder temperatures. The average high today is 59F but it appears temperatures today won't get out of the 40s!

The equinox occurs at the point when the sun crosses the celestial equator from South to North. The image above and below help to visualize this.


At the equinox, the geometric center of the Sun crosses the equator and this point is above the horizon for 12 hours everywhere on Earth.  Now when we think about the equinox, we often think about equal hours of daylight and darkness. The word equinox comes from the Latin word "aequus" meaning "equal" and "nox" meaning "night". Although it's close, there are actually a few more minutes of daylight on the equinox than darkness. Monday we had 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.  Sunrise on Monday, March 17, 2012 was 7:16 AM and sunset was at 7:17 PM. So you may be asking, why wasn't Monday the equinox?

Well, it all comes down to that exact point when the center of the sun crosses the equator.  Sunrise and sunset occur when the top of the sun, not the center, is on the horizon.  That's why there are actually a few more minutes of daylight on the equinox.  Also, the earth's atmosphere refracts, or bends, light from the sun.  So, the top of the sun appears to be above the horizon when it is actually below the horizon. 


Today (Friday) we'll have a little over 12 hours of daylight (12 hours and 8 minutes), whereas Tuesday had 12 hours of daylight and darkness. From here on out, up until the summer solstice, we'll gain 2 hours 44 minutes of daylight.

The growing daylight and higher sun angle help promote warmer days.  Unfortunately, it can sometimes be a slow process in these transition months. Case in point, this March. The average high for the middle of March is about 55°. By the end of the month, the average high will be 61°.  The extended forecast starts out seasonable and then get a little warmer than average; however, another dip in temperatures for early next week. 

Happy Spring!

Get ready! D.C. area braces for winter blast to mark Spring's arrival

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:12:28 EST

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Could we see flakes flying on the first day of spring?

It was 73 Tuesday in D.C. and the vernal equinox (i.e. spring) is Friday, so you would think we have seen the last of the wintry weather. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, that is not the case!

An approaching weather system should arrive during the overnight hours Thursday into Friday morning. Temperatures will be above freezing, but the air is dry, and as the moisture begins to fall, there will be some cooling of the air mass and wintry precipitation.

Latest model guidance suggests around an inch of snow around the beltway with several inches possible farther north and west.

Update: Snow possible for the 1st day of spring

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:29:00 EST

The vernal equinox (i.e. spring) is Friday, so you would think we have seen the last of the wintry weather. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, that is not the case!

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for areas northwest (in purple) and a Winter Storm Warning (pink) for Washington, Morgan, and Alleganyy counties in MD and Berkeley county WV.  A winter weather advisory indicates light snowfall could impact road conditions.  A winter storm warning is issued when heavy snow is expected and will likely cause travel impacts.  Elevation will play a huge role in this system with the highest accumulations farther NW. 

NWS Watches

The moisture is creeping in from the south, as you can see from this surface map.


The system should arrive during the overnight hours Thursday into Friday morning. Temperatures will be above freezing, but the air is dry, and as the moisture begins to fall, there will be some cooling of the air mass and wintry precipitation.

In House Model 6AM simulation of Snow

At this point, the Stormwatch 7 team cannot promise that we will see accumulating snow in the immediate metro area, but it is not out of the question.  Here's the latest StormWatch7 team's thinking:

Latest model guidance suggests around an inch of snow around the beltway with several inches possible farther north and west. I think we are in luck though because the local roadways are mild, which is a good thing. That means that even with an inch of snow possible, the amount we can really actualize (how much can accumulate) on the ground is minimal. I predict a scenario where a light coating could develop in mainly grassy areas. This setup lends itself to being an elevation-dependent situation. Meaning those who are hilltops and ridges have a greater likelihood of a couple of inches of accumulation and the potential for snow to make for slippery roadways.

As warmer air overspreads through the day, we all change over to a cold rain before it finally tapers off Friday night. The question remains though what, if any impact this may have on the region and in particular for the morning rush.  So here are the key points for now and we urge you to check back here for updates as we get new information. 


 As always, stay with the StormWatch7 weather team for more!

Parts of D.C. area under Dense Fog Advisory until 10 a.m. Wednesday; low visibilities

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 20:32:19 EST

WASHINGTON (WJLA) The National Weather Service expects dense fog to last through Wednesday morning for much of the D.C. area.

The weather service said a Dense Fog Advisory would be in effect until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Forecasters said visibility was expected to be one-quarter mile or less in some places.

The weather service, along with local police and fire agencies, urged motorists to reduce speeds and leave plenty of space between them and other vehicles.

Snow-covered sidewalks prove challenging for elderly and disabled residents

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 23:23:50 EST

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - Clasping onto her black rolling bag as if it were a sturdy crutch, Dianne Caldwell labored her way down an icy, snow-covered sidewalk.

The 71-year-old retired community college instructor contacted 7 On Your Side, complaining that the slick conditions were hampering the daily walk from her Silver Spring apartment complex to a Metro bus stop near the corner of Georgia Avenue and Jesup Blair Drive.

"It's like walking on ice," Caldwell remarked. "I have slipped and I've slid, but thank God I have not fallen."

ABC 7 News contacted Montgomery County to determine who is responsible for the untreated sidewalk. County spokesman Patrick Lacefield says because the sidewalk is located alongside Jesup Blair Park, it is the responsibility of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Calls and emails seeking comment and/or an explanation from the agency were not returned.

"We seniors are put in jeopardy when we have to walk on ice to get to places like the bus stop," Caldwell added. "I could break a bone, and I guess that's my major concern—falling and no one being there to help me back up."

Following any snowfall in Montgomery County, residents and businesses have 24 hours to shovel their sidewalks. If they don't, county inspectors will issue a written warning, which includes a 24-hour extension. However, if nothing changes in that time, the county could issue a $50 fine per day, until the sidewalk is clear of snow and ice.

Daylight Saving Time Sunday morning

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:14:00 EST

It's that time of year again when you have to again wake up in the dark but at the same time experience a longer period of daylight in the evening. We enter Daylight Saving Time Sunday morning at 2am.

Sunrise on Saturday is at 6:32am and it sets at 6:07pm. Feel free to sleep in Sunday morning, as it will still be dark after 7am with sunrise at 7:31am. Personally I love having the extra hour of daylight in the evening hours instead with the sun setting Sunday at 7:08pm.

This is also a great time to change your batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. IAFF will thank me for passing that along!

Sunrise and Sunset times Saturday and Sunday

As far as adding daylight to the mix, D.C. will experience 11 hours and 35 minutes of daylight Saturday, but in just 11 days there will be 12 hours of daylight.

Looking ahead, there will be 12 hours and 36 minutes of daylight by March 31st and over 13 hours of daylight by April 10th. That should be enough to look forward to for a little while. Enjoy the milder weekend!

Record cold temps ice over D.C. area following record snowfall

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 10:19:28 EST

WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - A blast of frosty air brought record low temperatures Friday to the mid-Atlantic region in the aftermath of a powerful snowstorm.

The National Weather Service reported that temperatures hit record lows Friday morning at Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Dulles reached 9 degrees, breaking the old record of 15, which was set in 1978. BWI reached 10 degrees, breaking the previous records of 13 degrees set for the day in 1873 and 1901.

The extremely low temperatures resulted in icy roads around the region, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses.

The record-setting cold came following a day of record snowfall.

Thursday's late-season snow storm broke records at the D.C. area's three airports, including a 127-year-old record.

The weather service said 9 ½ inches of snow fell at Dulles on Thursday. That broke a record of 1 inch set for the day in 2001.

At Reagan National Airport, 4.8 inches of snow fell - breaking a record of 4.4 inches set in 1888 for D.C.

The weather service reported 6.2 inches of snow fell at BWI, breaking the record of 4 inches set in 1902.

Major school districts close, federal offices in D.C. open on delayed schedule Friday

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 05:42:39 EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - Low temperatures and snow that hit the region Thursday at the tail end of a brutal winter were expected to continue to affect the Mid-Atlantic region into Friday.

The federal government says its offices in the Washington area will be open Friday amid the region's latest winter storm, but they are on a two-hour delayed arrival and employees can telework or take unscheduled leave.

The Office of Personnel Management says nonemergency employees in and around Washington can come to work up to two hours past their expected arrival time. Those who are telework ready have the option to work from home. Employees also can take previously unscheduled time off.

District of Columbia officials will lift the snow emergency at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Parking was restricted on snow emergency routes during the storm to allow road crews to clear major streets from curb to curb.

Most school districts are closed and governments are delaying opening offices as the mid-Atlantic region digs out after a late-season snowstorm.

Liberal leave is in effect for Maryland state workers. Some transit agencies suspended bus service overnight, but are restarting with modified schedules and routes.

Officials are warning that roads are icy after temperatures dropped overnight. The National Weather Service says record snowfalls for the day were recorded Thursday at the region's three airports, including 9 ½ inches at Dulles International Airport.

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