WASHINGTON — Certain words put the nation’s capital on edge.
Shutdown, debt ceiling and even Redskins have had their moments. But few frightful words can compare with snow.
It’s a word we may be hearing more of this winter. Meteorologists expect more powder compared with last year.
“We’re expecting this winter to be colder than last year, and we’re expecting slightly more snow than last year,” says Matt Rodgers, a meteorologist with the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
He was on panel addressing a D.C. Council committee about snow preparedness.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we got between 4 and 10 inches,” he says.
Washington saw just 3 inches of snow last winter.
This initial warning — and panic — about the forthcoming winter came as a result of the Farmers’ Almanac prediction. It warns of “biting, bitterly and piercing” temperatures and a return of the “days of shivery.”
The meteorologists briefing council members didn’t project the same certitude or shivering.
“The bottom line for the Mid-Atlantic and for D.C. is that we should expect somewhere around a normal winter for us,” says Chris Strong, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
He says no single cycle or pattern, such as El Nino, appears ready to exert a great influence over winter weather.
“But we always have to be ready for that big storm because you only have to have the right conditions to come together for a couple days to get that big storm,” he says.
Councilwoman Mary Cheh asked what was, perhaps, the most difficult question of all.
“What is normal?” she asked the panel.
On average, D.C. gets 15 inches of snow. The catch is that amount rarely falls.
Most years, the snowfall total is well below 15 inches. But a few skyscraper totals (who can forget Snowmageddon?) distort what the “normal” snowfall is.
So in predicting a normal winter, the outlook allows for many possibilities.