The Presidentsí Day Weekend Snowstorm of 2003
This massive snowstorm shutdown the local D.C. area, along with the
entire northeast Megalopolis during the President's Day Weekend of
This storm resulted from a classic "split jet stream" setup, with moisture produced from the southern "El Nino" branch interacting with a northern branch -- which provided a tremendous supply of cold air. The southern branch earlier in the week had brought flooding rains and mudslides to
On the surface weather map, a huge bitterly cold Arctic high pressure system set up shop north of
Light rain broke out in the Metro area Friday night, with snow in the northern suburbs. By Saturday morning, the snow line started receding slowly to the south as the
During Saturday night, an interesting setup was seen on radar and satellite, with a continuous feed of heavy rain streaming up from the
Between 2 and Sunday morning, heavy snow explosively broke out across the entire Metro region. Whiteout conditions were noted over the next several hours, with snowfall rates exceeding 2" per hour. By , 6-10" of snow had already fallen in the D.C. area. Moderate-to-heavy snow continued all day Saturday without abatement.
Suddenly, around , the snow turned to sleet, even in the western suburbs. Sleet continued all Sunday night, sometimes at a moderate to heavy rate. The sleet did not add much to the total accumulations, but made for a very dense mass on the ground, which was quite difficult to shovel.
Finally, around mid-morning Monday, the precipitation ended as a brief period of moderate to heavy snow.
Officially, 16.7" of snow fell at Reagan National, which was
Generally 20-28" fell in the western, northern and northeast suburbs, and 15-20" fell from D.C. south. The eastern suburbs fared well, with
The storm continued to dump amazing totals all the way up to
How does the storm of 2003 stack up against other storms of the modern era? A brief summary is as follows:
The Snowstorm of February 1979
Up to 26" fell in the eastern and southern suburbs. About 3-6" of snow on the ground prior to the storm.
The Snowstorm of February 1983
Up to 30" fell in northwest suburbs.
The back-to-back Snowstorms of January 1987 (2 storms in 3 days)
Up to 28" fell in southern suburbs
The Blizzard of January 1996
25-30" in western suburbs. About 6-10" of additional snow fell over five day period after the main storm with little melting.
The Presidentsí Day Weekend Snowstorm of February 2003
Up to 28" in western, northern and northeast suburbs.
Comparison of 1996 and 2003 storms along northeast Megalopolis:
†Washington/Baltimore Average: 21.5"
†New York: 20.1"
Washington/Baltimore average: 23.3"
New York: 19.5"