Speed Reads

below freezing

Why was the D.C.-area snowstorm on Monday so intense?

An unexpected snowfall took the greater Washington, D.C., area by storm on Monday, blanketing the region in five to 10 inches or more of "cement-like snow" that cut power for over half a million residents and stranded hundreds of motorists on Interstate 95, The Washington Post reports. But what made this particular storm so unwieldy and why was its impact so unexpected? 

Well, you can attribute that to the heavy weight of the wet snow that piled onto trees and sidewalks, as well as the storm's "unusual strength" and the "ideal" track it took while traveling through central Virginia, southern Maryland, and D.C., writes the Post's Capital Weather Gang.

Because temperatures "hovered near freezing" during the snowfall, flakes were heavy and wet — "perfect for packing snowballs but perilous for trees limbs," writes the Post. As winds increased in gusto, branches snapped under the strain of the snow. Then, while temperatures continued to drop, initially-wet paved surfaces (like I-95) developed treacherous icy layers that complicated road crew efforts.

As for the colossal amount of snow, that can be attributed to a nor'easter that grew stronger as it moved away from the Carolinas and toward the coastal Atlantic. Storms that develop this way are "notorious for producing significant snowfall in our area," wrote the Capital Weather Gang. 

Though forecasters were aware of a significant, impending snow event, they were not prepared for how rapidly the snowstorm would evolve, the widespread power outages it would cause, or how severe it would be in some communities, which surely added to some of the shock. Read more at The Washington Post.