MEASURING SNOW IN WASHINGTON D.C.

The past weekend blizzard was a sight to behold. Snowmegeddon wrecked havoc on the Atlantic seaboard, from North Carolina up to New York blizzard conditions caused death and destruction. Traffic accidents were the norm, road closures common place, highways snarled for miles. Blizzard Jonas was advertised well in advance, the weathermen when all is said and done, correctly, we were surprised, hit the bullseye in their forecast.

The clean up has begun, some areas, like the Bronx, were at wits end, citizens wondering why the plows never came.  Snow totals varied and amounts were touted with precision accept for, yes you guessed it, Washington D.C. They operate under a different set of rules. When the other airports surrounding Washington reported their totals, for instance Dulles Airport in northern Virginia and Thurgood Marshall-Baltimore Washington International Airport in Maryland — recorded 29.3 and 29.2 inches of snow, respectively.

And that brings us to the buffoons that were responsible for measuring the snow at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. The team at Reagan National, in Arlington County, Va., use a device called a snow board, in keeping with the requirements of the NWS. The board is supposed to be placed on the ground in a location where it will not be affected by high winds or drifting snow. It is supposed to be wiped clean and replaced every six hours. According to the Post, 17.8 inches of snow had fallen at the airport as of 8 p.m. local time Saturday. Although snow fell for at least another four hours, 17.8 inches was the final measurement submitted to the NWS.

On Sunday, Mark Richards, the senior weather observer at National, stood by the accuracy of the reading, saying his team did the best it could under tough conditions.
“Everyone has to understand that measuring snow in a blizzard is a tough thing to do,” Richards said. “We would like it to be as accurate as possible,” he said. “But it’s an inexact science.”
However, Bob Leffler, a retired NWS climatologist told the Post that the loss of the snow board may have resulted in Reagan National’s observers underreporting the true total amount of snowfall by between 10 and 20 percent, which would make the true total between 19.5 inches and 21.4 inches.

Washington at its finest hour, now we know why the one inch storm on Wednesday turned into such a disaster.