Winter storm watch in effect with 5+ inches possible

March 04, 2013|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

A winter storm watch is in effect for all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, cautioning of chances for 5 inches or more of snow overnight Tuesday through Wednesday. But uncertainty remains, preventing forecasters from making precise snowfall estimates.

The storm is expected to move across the Midwest today before heading toward the Appalachians and central Virginia on Tuesday. In the Baltimore region, while the precipitation is expected to start as rain in some areas Tuesday night, it is expected to change over to snow most everywhere on the north side of the Interstate 95 corridor, according to the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington forecast office.

Models are showing about 1-2 inches of liquid precipitation could fall over the forecast office's region, which stretches west into West Virginia, south into central Virginia, north to the Mason-Dixon Line and east to the Chesapeake. The snow-to-liquid ratio could be anywhere from 7:1 to 10:1, meaning the possibility for at least 7 inches for many areas, though less than that in areas where the precipitation starts as rain.

The latest weather service forecast maps keep those totals confined to the mountains though, with an inch or less in the Baltimore area. Accumulation totals are likely to change as the storm approaches.

The winter storm watch means that there is a strong possibility of 5 or more inches of snowfall in the next few days, but not that such a storm is yet imminent or the forecast ironclad. The watch is in effect Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening.

Where the heaviest snow falls depends on the storm's track and where it ends up intensifying. Forecasts remained mixed Monday on whether that would be well to the south of Maryland or closer to the state. is calling for 3-6 inches for the Baltimore area in a preliminary accumulation map posted Monday, with a foot or more in the mountains straddling West Virginia and Virginia.

Some are already cautioning of a treacherous commute Wednesday no matter what mix of precipitation falls. The snow is expected to be a wet and heavy variety, in contrast to the powdery dustings seen so far this winter.

"Regardless of the type of precipitation your neighborhood gets, Wednesday will be a cold, wet, and windy day with slippery travel conditions," WBAL-TV meteorologists wrote on the station's weather blog.

If the forecast holds up, the storm would kill what is pacing toward the least snowy two-year period on record for Baltimore, with 6.6 inches so far over this winter and last winter. It would take more than a foot of snow to bring this winter up to the average snowfall for a Baltimore winter of about 18-20 inches, with 4.8 inches measured on the ground so far.

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