Weather

View of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial from the White House, covered in snow

The "White Christmas" of 1962

If a white Christmas is what you want, D.C. might not be the best place for you. The area has only seen a handful of snowy holidays. But the most impressive came in 1962, when a record-setting 5 inches fell on December 25. To date, it's still the most snowfall recorded on Christmas Day in Washington.

The Hurricane That Created the Ocean City We Know Today

When readers of the Washington Evening Star opened their papers on August 25, 1933 they needed no reminder of what had just befallen the city. Two days earlier, the fiercest storm the nation’s capital had seen in decades pushed a wall of water up the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. In a matter of hours, over six inches of rain fell on D.C. 51-mph winds toppled trees. Floodwaters submerged highways. Roofs were torn off buildings. A train crossing the Anacostia River was swept off its tracks. The list went on… Damage was even worse in Ocean City, yet the storm was also a cause for celebration. Huh?

Washingtonians with outdoor jobs, like this snow-removal crew, suffered mightily during Washington's record-setting cold snap of 1899. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

Washington's Record Low

It’s cold outside — by D.C. standards, REALLY cold. And, if you believe the area weather-folk, it’s going to be even colder overnight. Temperatures may reach zero and possibly a little bit below. (Thanks, polar vortex.)

But, even if your nose and extremities might suggest otherwise, we are still a fair ways off from the all-time record low temperature in Washington. That distinction goes to February 11, 1899. Around 7 a.m. that morning, the Weather Bureau at 24th and M St., NW recorded its lowest reading ever, a frigid 15 degrees below zero.

1987: The Blizzard of Discontent

Washington remained buried in snow two days after the Super Bowl snowstorm. Credit: National Archives

On the morning of January 22, 1987, Washington was hit by a massive snowstorm that, in some ways, might have been the beginning of then-Mayor Marion Barry's ignominious downfall. A sudden storm quickly dumped 14 inches of snow upon hapless Washingtonians, forcing the federal government, the District government, and businesses to shut down and send hundreds of thousands of workers home. That exodus, combined with the rapid snow buildup, quickly threw its transportation system into chaos. Ice built up on the third rail from which Metro trains draw power, by afternoon, officials had to shut down 37 miles of the 70-mile rail system, as they stuggled to free six trains that were stranded for several hours on the Red Line. Police had to be called in to manage the overflow crowds of stranded commuters at stations. 130 buses became stuck in the snowy roads, including 17 that were jammed up on one stretch of Massachusetts Avenue alone. Cars couldn't get anywhere either.

Apparently Predicting D.C. Weather Has Always Been a Fickle Business

Weren't we supposed to get snow today? At one point the word was that D.C. might get five or six inches... then it was down to an inch or two... then a dusting... now, nothing. It's a major disappointment for those of us who like the white fluffy stuff.

Well, it seems predicting the weather here has always been a little bit of a crapshoot. Check out this cartoon that ran on the front page of the Washington Evening Star newspaper exactly 100 years ago today, January 17, 1913.

A bunch of stocking-cap clad kids are ready to go sledding in Washington but, like today... NO SNOW, just clouds. I wonder if their grassroots "We Demand A New Weather Man" campaign had any impact?

Kudos to the folks at the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana division for pulling this gem out of the archives. If you haven't yet, go ahead and like them on Facebook. They are posting fun stuff like this all the time.

Hugh Bennett and the Perfect Storm

Think the impacts of the Dust Bowl were only felt in the Great Plains? Think again. In the spring of 1935, a dust storm nearly blocked out the sun above Washington, alarming local citizens and spurring Congress to take action on soil erosion policy.