From the ABC 7 Weather team

D.C. cold snap: how does it measure up?

January 23, 2013 - 02:05 PM
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The deep chill is back in Washington, and it's the coldest stretch of weather in quite some time. Here's a look at how it stacks up.

We all feel the chill in the air, and this is the coldest stretch we've seen in Washington for quite a while.  I took a glance at historical data to see how this cold snap measures up to the past.

First of all, our forecast indicates that the temperature may not climb above freezing until Sunday, so that would make for 5 consecutive days of a high temperature at or below freezing (Tuesday was briefly 32°) at Reagan National Airport (DCA).  For the sake of comparison, I sifted through historical data looking for the longest stretch of days in recent years with highs at or below freezing. There have been several 3 or 4 day stretches in recent history, but you have to go back to January of 2004 to find a cold snap of comparable length when we had 6 days below 32° at DCA (warmest was 31°).

Before then, February of 1996 was similar and got off to a cold start with high temperatures ranging from 17° to 30°, and the warmest temperature during that time was 30°.  Also, February '96 may ring a bell for something other than the cold, and that was the 8.4 inches of snow that fell at DCA.  The snow pack likely helped keep temperatures down along with the cold airmass that was in place, which makes our current stretch of cold look even more impressive. 

All that said, we're not breaking any records, and this is not the coldest we've been since '04.  This could just turn out to be the coldest stretch at or below freezing since then.  Actually, just back in January of 2009 DCA hit a low of 8°, and so far in this cold snap the coldest reading was 15° earlier Wednesday morning.

Thanks to Ian Livingston (@islivingston) and Jacob Hamblin (@HamblinJ) for helping to fact check. Follow them on Twitter for great, local weather information.

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