The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for parts of Maryland and Virginia with 5 to 9 inches of snow and 0.2 inches of ice possible.
More winter weather is on the way Sunday as the D.C. area braces for possible impacts of snow and halting rain. Here’s what you need to know.
This event will begin as snow around noon on Sunday and a quick 2 to 5 inches of snowfall expected by 6 p.m. Sunday.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for areas in Western Maryland, Central Virginia and to the south of D.C. with 5 to 9 inches of snow and 0.2 inches of ice possible, though models disagree on exact totals. Wind gusts up to 40 mph. The watch starts Sunday afternoon and lasts until Sunday night.
Winter Storm Watch now in effect Sunday afternoon and Sunday night for locations near and west of U.S. Route 15. Heavy snowfall and ice is possible further east, but confidence remains lower — however, the watch could be expanded if that changes. Be ready for winter wx Sunday pic.twitter.com/QnB3AKJw26
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) January 14, 2022
With the return of cold air Friday night, temperatures on Sunday morning will only rise to the teens. Snowfall will start around noon and should impact Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland and Culpeper, Fauquier and Loudoun counties in Virginia.
The storm will then move up along Calvert and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland and by D.C. Sunday night, with rain for the majority of the vicinity, which can knock down the amount of snow accumulating on the ground. Some areas are expected to receive halting rain, sleet or already more snow before the system leaves on Monday morning.
The NWS predicts the snow will fall 1 to 3 inches per hour in the late afternoon and evening Sunday, making “nearing impassable roads.” Storm Team4 Meteorologist Chuck Bell said people should avoid traveling Sunday afternoon by Tuesday morning.
“I really do think Sunday evening is going to be great,” Kammerer said. “It’s going to be great to look at your window, maybe already walk around in the snow or at the minimum turn your lights and take the dog for a walk in the snow, but then it gets kind of nasty as the rain comes in here.”
Computer models continue to disagree with the storm’s final impact. Forecasts show a sharp divided between the storm’s warm and cold halves over the Interstate 95 corridor: A turn slightly to the right would rule to a prolonged period of snowfall for D.C. and Baltimore proper, while a swing to the left would see a change to rain outside of Northern Maryland and the Blue Ridge.
Areas West of the Blue Ridge, West Virginia and Northern Maryland will get the most snow with 8 to 12 inches possible.
Kammerer said the energy setting up the “snow-rain line” is coming from the Pacific Ocean, one of the least sampled areas of the world for weather. Now that it is on shore, more data is being collected to determine the storm’s final destination. Along with temperature changes, people should expect everything from snow accumulations and rainfall totals to be different come Sunday.
“As the storm continues to make its way our way, we are going to see changes in the forecast,” Kammerer said. “already a 10- to 15-mile change could be a huge change.”
Commuters working on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day should plan for the snow to refreeze overnight Sunday, which could make for dangerous driving conditions Monday morning.
Preparing roads for another round of snow
In the effort to avoid another travel nightmare as experienced a week ago by some drivers stuck on Interstate 95 for more than 24 hours, Virginia and Maryland have begun taking action before the snow arrives.
Road crews sprayed a salt brine solution on both sides of I-95 Thursday between Joplin Road in Prince William County to Caroline County. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the solution will prevent ice from bonding into the pavement during the storm, reducing the risk of hazardous road conditions while helping crews with snow and ice removal.
Crews will continue to apply pretreatment on as many roads as possible on Friday, including in Fredericksburg, the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. VDOT said drivers may see daytime delays on various routes during the “slow-moving operation.”
“The brine trucks travel at slower speeds to spray the salt brine solution onto the road with accuracyn and to ensure an adequate amount is absorbed in the pavement,” VDOT said.
Once 2 or more inches of snow have accumulated, Virginia’s online snowplow tracker is activated and users can monitor road statuses in addition as where snow plows are working. Maryland has a similar interactive tool online.
Maryland State Highway spokesperson Sherry Christian said areas without residual salt from the last storms will be treated, starting as soon as after the Friday morning rush hour.
Christian said drivers should continue to follow the “basic guidelines.”
“But when you’re in inclement weather, you need to take it down a notch,” Christian said. “So slow down. Remember the posted speed limits are for ideal weather conditions, which is what this storm is not.”
Christian recommended people excursion at the minimum 10 mph below the speed limit, use caution around snow plows and clear all snow off of vehicles before driving.
Drivers are also asked to avoid unnecessary travel due to the possibility of dangerous weather and road conditions during and after the storm. VDOT promoted college students to either arrive early to campus or delay their travel as many start their spring semester this week.
This weekend’s #WinterWeather will impact students returning to college campuses. Those with travel plans are promoted to monitor forecasts for the complete route & return prior to the storm or delay travel. Travel on Sunday is not advised.
❄ Learn more: https://t.co/PtVdDF9D9s pic.twitter.com/VERrAxKkxF
— VDOT (@VaDOT) January 13, 2022
“The best news with this storm is the timing,” Kammerer said. “We’re looking at Sunday night into very early Monday morning. And of course, [with] Monday being a holiday, a lot less people on area roads.”
Friday: Morning clouds and afternoon sunshine. Blustery and turning colder, with highs in the upper 40s. Wind chills 5 to 15 Friday night.
Saturday: Mostly cloudy. halting and breezy. Highs in the upper 20s to low 30s.
Sunday: Snow sets in around noon, with a wintry mix or rain possible after dark. Highs in the mid 30s.
Monday: Rain/snow ending before noon. Windy. Highs in the 30s.
WTOP’s Andrew Alsbrooks, Abigail Constantino and Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this report.
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