Melt, baby! Four days of sun and 40 degrees ahead
It's 10:30 a.m. and the mercury has already topped 32 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets. And the forecast out of Sterling on this Wednesday morning promises little to fear from snow showers today, and much to look forward to from the four or five days of sunshine and 40-degree highs the forecast has on tap.
Not so in Western Maryland, where northwest winds continue to push moist air up the western slopes, which produces more snow. The Wisp ski resort has recorded 51 inches of snow in JUST THE PAST WEEK, and 189 inches for the season. That's a lot, even for Garrett County.
But as those winds cross the mountains and flow down the eastern slopes, they dry out and warm up. So maybe this is the week when the ice shelf hanging over my front door will collapse, the gutters will run free and North Calvert below Mt. Royal will magically expand to two full lanes of traffic again. One can only hope.
The important thing is to move the melting process along at a slow-to-moderate clip before the next storm rolls in early next week, or the warmup predicted for the first week in March arrives and hits the accelerator. We don't want to follow crippling record snowfalls with wet basements and flooding rivers.
(Nor do we want to accelerate the melt with propane. Bad idea.)
But here's the deal: Forecasting models see another storm moving across the continent this weekend, arriving at the East Coast by Monday. They disagree on just where it reaches the coast, leaving a raft of questions about who gets rain, who gets snow, and who gets missed. If we can't take a pass, we may prefer more snow to rain that could produce flooding.
Sterling is looking for partly to mostly sunny skies through Sunday. Highs should hold in the low 40s during the day, dropping into the 20s at night to touch the brakes on the Great Melt. That's a good thing.
Then there's Monday. At this point, five days out, the weather service sees a 30 percent chance for "rain and snow" Monday, with the highs reaching 39 degrees. That shifts to a 30 percent chance for snow Monday night, with a low near 26. Here's a bit of this morning's forecast discussion:
"HAVE REASONABLE CONFIDENCE THAT THERE WILL BE A WAVE THAT
AFFECTS THE REGION IN THE MONDAY TO TUESDAY TIME FRAME... BUT
UNCERTAINTY ABOUNDS WITH THE DETAILS OF THIS SYSTEM...ESPECIALLY
TRACK/STRENGTH. WILL KEEP CHANCE POPS [FORECASTS FOR A CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION] DURING THIS TIME...NOTING THAT THIS COULD BE A MIXED PRECIPITATION EVENT."
AccuWeather.com's weather blogger Henry Margusity is watching the models for this one, too. He sees plenty of cold air moving in, and seems to see more snow ahead. "I kinda feel this is going to end up back with a bigger storm next week," he said. But even he sounds weary of it all. Finally. "I'm hoping this is the finale. I'm done."
Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, sees the blocking high in the arctic setting up by the weekend to assure cold air here, and suspects the storm will track across Virginia, not the Ohio Valley (which would mean rain and a nasty mix), putting us in line for snow:
"We can say with confidence that this upper-air pattern will support cold weather here into next week, and the placement of the large-scale features also supports another eastern U.S. winter storm. I mentioned earlier that - off the top of my head - I have seen this set up 4 times this winter; 3 times we got hit, and once there was a near miss (storm formed a bit off the coast)."
Mr. Foot and his team of student forecasters don't have a prediction this far out. But they're working on it. Watch for updates here.
(SUN PHOTOS/Amy Davis)