Sunday, December 19, 2004


THE FINAL UPDATE BEFORE THE FUN BEGINS. After much anticipation, consternation, wrangling and general hashing and re-hashing, we have a forecast I think everyone can live with. While the snow amounts have been adjusted slightly, the CONCEPT and INTENT of the forecast remains the same. FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT THE QUICKCAST WITHOUT ALL THE ANALYSIS, HERE IT IS:

Less than 3" of snow and a thin layer of ice on the ground Monday tomorrow morning in the I-95 big cities from Washington DC north to Philadelphia, which will cause a 2-HOUR DELAY for schools located in rural-urban combo areas, such as: Chester and Delaware Counties, PA south to Howard County, MD, including Cecil, Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick. Farther north and west, less than 2" and lack of the ice glaze will not interfere with school west of Lancaster County, PA and Frederick County, MD. Exception is the far western mountains beyond Hagerstown and Altoona, which should pickup 2-4" or more in higher elevations.

City schools including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington will probably not have a delay due to a slight urban heat island effect. New York and north and east will see 4" or more, and delays are likely but not closures. No matter what happens, travel throughout the NE corridor will be adversely affected by this system for the entire day.


1. Wherever you live, don't stay up late tonight. There will not be much to see... a lot of wind, some rain, some snow and very cold air. I am going to bed at normal time, about 9:30 PM. Make sure you have your winter gear ready for tomorrow, IT WILL BE BRUTALLY COLD.

2. Students: DO YOUR HOMEWORK or study for the test. Teachers: HAVE YOUR PLANS ready. Don't just throw caution to the wind because you want a snowday. This is not your classic lock of a snowstorm, it is a series of events which have to go the right way to turn in your favor. There is just as much of a chance you are disappointed.

3. Decide if you are a "Pumped Up Powderhound" or "A Nervous Nellie" and then consider what the other side has to say on the debate section below. If you end up going to school or work tomorrow, and there's no delay, the Nellies won, and you'll know why that happened. On the other hand, if you see the little ticker tape on bottom of the TV screen with your school's name on it, then Hallelujah, and you'll know why that happened too.

The most current radar map shows that the front is crossing the Appalachians, but there is already moisture along the coastal plain. I am happy with the rain... in fact, just keep on rainin' baby. I like it, I like it, and you'll see why when you read the debate below. There probably will NOT be accumulations near 4" for anyone south of NYC, but please keep in mind the 2 most important factors here: CONDITION OF THE ROADS and TIMING OF THE SNOW. That is the kicker which I think will at least let you roll back over for an extra hour of sleep Monday morning. If that doesn't happen, I will invoke the "NO GROANING RULE."

NOTE TO NEW READERS: When storms threaten a certain area, focus of posts on this site shift away from the overall view to specific regions at risk for significant weather. I am a teacher by craft, so naturally the focus becomes “will we have school or not” but I also aim to provide worthwhile information to all readers, including travelers, business people, family and friends in affected areas.

SO HERE WE ARE, DAY OF THE STORM. It’s not really a “storm” but more a glorified front with supercold Arctic air behind it. Outside at 12:00 PM in Baltimore, the air was very still, there is a little drizzle, and the temp is nudging downward to 39 F. Doesn’t feel like anything big is going to happen, but soon enough, this front will blow through with a swiftness that will make you think it is a storm alright. In keeping with the objective, bipartisan focus of this site, I offer you reasons FOR and AGAINST the impending snowfall.

FIRST...A Pumped Up Powderhound’s (PUP’s) reasons FOR the forecast and schools being delayed or closed:

“We can’t wait to see the surprise on everyone’s faces when they discover snow on the ground tomorrow, and a delay or closing of schools to boot. Just read and weep you Nervous Nellies.”

1) The fog and frost this morning in central Maryland indicates low-level cold air is already saturated.

2) Sunday’s temps did not get as high as forecasted (TWC says 45, it’s barely 40 F) that means overnight cooling will begin sooner, allowing a changeover to snow earlier. The high liquid to water ratio means that .10 of rain could easily end up as 1-2 inches of snow or more.

3) With the air saturated at present, any rain or snow falling will not evaporate. Roads will be wet at arrival of the front. Temps will plunge quickly, allowing the slickness to glaze over into a very thin coating of ice. On top of the ice will be a light covering of snow. The National Weather Service has said “ice should not form due to warm ground temperatures.” This is deceptively dangerous to put the expectation in the mind of a commuter that they should not encounter any ice at all. Translation: My Dad's office in Paoli, PA will probably be closed because their criteria is 1/2" snow and a thin glaze of ice.

4) The Arctic front will arrive quickly, with winds of 20-30 mph and gusts above 40 mph. This will produce isolated power outages at a critical time when school officials are making the decision to delay or close. Baltimore area schools have had early dismissals this year for strong winds.

5) Morning air temperatures will be in the upper teens throughout the I-95 NE corridor. Wind chills will be near zero for most of the day. Highs will not crack 25 on Monday in DC and BAL, and not crack 20 in PHL and NYC. When elementary children are at the most risk from the weather is when it is most likely you’ll see a delay.

And finally, a PUP’s reason for sticking with the forecast… Combine all these factors together and have them all occurring in a short period of time (rapidly falling temps, strong winds, isolated power outages, deceptively slick roads, snow falling in the early morning hours) and… the realization that county officials will probably not waste too much road salt on such a “minor event” and you have the makings of at least a 2-hour delay. Roads suddenly become surprisingly slick, salt trucks did not make their rounds, and now the slick spots are covered with perhaps just an inch or two of snow. Now you see why powderhounds are pumped up for this, as am I.

SECOND...A Nervous Nellie’s (ANN’s) reasons AGAINST the forecast and schools being open and not delayed.

"Okay you powderhounds, you think you got it ALL figured out. Your perfect little plans will come together just at the right moment to let you sleep in tomorrow? Natta, no way, ain’t happenin’ and here’s why."

1) This supposed “storm” you keep talking about hasn’t EVEN FORMED YET. Another classic example of all those eager beaver forecasters who say ‘and this front will sweep down, and this moisture will rotate in, and the wraparound cold air will change it all to snow..and… and..’ You know what, it never happens as quickly as you think. In fact, most of the time, these lows that are FORECASTED to form simply don’t. All you’re left with is flurries, so deal with it.

2) Dude, the ground is above freezing. Can you say “math and science?” If you want school to be closed or delayed, all the snow in the world won’t do a thing unless the ground is already BELOW freezing when the snow reaches it. Not at freezing, but BELOW… like 30, 25, or so. Newsflash: Better do your homework tonight.

3) Yeah, yeah, the snow ratio bit. We’ve heard this before “the colder the air, the more snow you get.” La De Da De Da. However, professor, remember that cold air is also very dry at upper levels. Supposing your little snowstorm EVAPORATES before it reaches the ground, then how will you explain the 2-3” of partly cloudy, eh?

4) Storms From The West Don’t Bring Extra Rest. Remember that little ditty from last winter? When was the last time you had off school for a glorified COLD front? Come on, get a life, or at least go back to your day job.

5) Playing the “cold little kiddie card” won’t get you any sympathy. What do you think these kids are going to freeze solid in 20 degree weather? We think they know how to wear a jacket, we also think the superintendent is not that easily hoodwinked by a cold front either.

6) Besides, getting the kids to school is probably better than having them home. Just what parents need is for their kids to be running around in sub 20 degree weather with shorts and a t-shirt. Then they’re all sick and coughing and whiny come the holidays, hence the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas."

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT, BOTH SIDES OF THE FORECAST. I'm going to take a break from the weather, and do schoolwork now...just in case I do get some extra time tomorrow, Mrs. Foot and I can get stuff done around the house. And so my esteemed colleague Mrs. Evans, my department chair, doesn't think that all I do is weather forecasting all day. And to prevent Mrs. Foot from making me sleep outside in the brutal cold, because there is more to life than blogging the weather.

The next update later this evening right before bed... around 9:00 PM. See you then.

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