It's beginning to look a lot like -- snow? Christmas Eve forecast for region calls for light accumulation

December 23, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

To Dewey Walston -- scientist and trained, professional meteorologist for the National Weather Service -- Christmas is just another winter's day of sky watching.

It might rain.

Or shine.

Or, to the delight of kids from 1 to 92 -- it might snow for Santa!

At 4:45 p.m. yesterday, Walston put out this advisory for the Baltimore area from weather service headquarters in Sterling, Va.: "Dreams of a white Christmas could become reality."

Though Walston was more accurately speaking of a white Christmas Eve, by 4: 46 p.m. he was getting "tons of calls" from all manner of media asking for the pertinent information: When? How long? Are you sure? How much?

"It will probably start about 7 or 8 p.m. [today] and continue on and off through much of Thursday," said Walston. "It could accumulate a little bit, a light accumulation. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say less than two inches."

The last time it snowed in this area on Christmas, Walston said, was 1993, but at 0.2 inches, it was hardly a dusting. In 1989, 1.9 inches fell Dec. 25, and the last time real accumulation gathered on the day commemorating Christ's birth was 1969, when 4.3 inches came down.

In the Baltimore-Washington area, white Christmases are rare. According to the National Weather Service, of the past 126 Christmas Days, eight have had measurable snow during the day.

The forecast for this Christmas would include the magical adjective "white" if enough snow falls tomorrow to linger into the next day. Otherwise, Friday will be partly sunny and cold, with lows in the teens and highs around freezing.

The recent arrival of the coldest air of the young winter season will keep temperatures in that range at least through the end of the week.

"As scientists, we just try to keep it to the possibility of a snow event on just another winter day. We try to disassociate ourselves from the fact that it's Christmas," said Walston. "But it's a little hard because people get excited."

The people at the 17 Heritage automobile dealers in Maryland are very excited about the chance of snow for the holiday -- so much so that they've committed to giving away $5,000 to select customers if three inches or more fall at Baltimore-Washington International Airport between midnight tomorrow and 6 a.m. Friday.

If it does, virtually everyone who purchased a vehicle from Heritage between Nov. 26 and Thursday will receive a check for $5,000, according to Jim Gregory, general sales manager for Heritage Dodge/Jeep Eagle on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills.

"We took out an insurance policy on it, just like [charities] do when they sponsor hole-in-one golf tournaments for a million dollars," said Gregory. "We're very much interested in snow on Christmas, no doubt about it. What better thing could happen for our customers?"

What better thing than snow on Christmas?

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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