The year was 2009. The month was December. Everybody in the D.C. area was gearing up for the holidays. I was at my 1st station in Winchester, VA in the northern Shenandoah Valley as their Chief Meteorologist. I was 4 years out of college and I had a little under 3 years of on-air experience. I saw this storm a-brewin’ about 10 days in advance and remember thinking “if this holds, this could be big.” Well the models kept this storm around and it was looking more and more intense as the date got closer. That date would be Friday December 18th, 2009. That date would also be the beginning of the snowiest winter in Washington D.C.’s recorded history.
This storm is classified as a “Miller A” type coastal storm (“Miller” named for James Miller). For this type of storm, an area of low pressure forms along a cold front in the Gulf of Mexico. That low eventually moves off the eastern seaboard and sucks up all the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. It then continues its trek up the east coast following the jet stream, gathering up moisture and intensifying during its journey.
Everything just came together just right for this storm. It started snowing at Dulles International Airport at 7:30p.m. on Friday. The snow did not stop in our region until 11:00 p.m. Saturday. While I was out in Winchester working a 36 hour stretch while my future colleagues in D.C. were working around the clock forecasting in amazement. I remember telling my production staff snow totals that I was going to have to get on-air with that Thursday. I was forecasting 16.0” – 28.0” for the northern Shenandoah Valley and I had never been more nervous. I couldn’t believe that I was going to have to get on air in my third year of experience and say we are going to get 2 feet of snow….if this didn’t come to fruition, I was surely going to be fired.
As we all know, it did come to fruition (thank goodness) and we received A LOT of snow across the region.
- Wet, heavy snow began to pile up very quickly and cut off many city services. Metro trains stopped running above ground because of the sheer depth of the drifts. I was living in Tyson's Corner at the time commuting to Winchester and driving on 66 on that Saturday was sheer madness. It took me 4.5 hours instead of the usual hour long drive to get from Winchester, VA to Tyson's Corner. A 2 foot wall of snow cut off 66 between Frederick County, VA and Warren County because plows had yet to reach the interstate. Schools shut down leading up to Christmas due to the massive amounts of snow. And as we all know, it only got worse as that winter continued.