The snow is getting deeper, and the temperature is falling fast. Wind gusts are picking up. If I had to choose between the snow and the temperature, I’d say the unusually frigid temperatures are the bigger and more dangerous part of the story.
Winter Storm Janus closed government offices in Washington on Tuesday, and schools throughout the metro region. By late afternoon, nearly everything was shut down and traffic was light.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the entire Washington area will remain virtually shut down Wednesday. Philadelphia, New York City and Boston will probably look like ghost towns Wednesday morning. It would be irresponsible to open anything in the early morning hours, primarily because of the extreme cold. I’ve heard that temperatures are going to 12 degrees and lower throughout the Washington area. In the suburbs, it could get down to 2 degrees above zero, with winds to create a windchill well below zero.
At such temperatures, chemicals can no longer keep pavement from freezing. Bottom line, early Wednesday, about the time children would be going to school, most roads and sidewalks will be ICY, and the outdoor temperatures will be seriously dangerous for any child or adult without gloves. Many, many people in the D.C. region, especially low-income people, do not have outerwear for temperatures so low.
This kind of frigid cold is so rare as to be almost without precedent in Maryland and D.C. Many people have never experienced anything like this and can hardly imagine the danger.
It’s the snow, wind, and low temperatures combined that make Winter Storm Janus a serious Nor’easter in coastal areas and a possible blizzard in parts of New England. About 80 million people are affected, from Washington to New York City to Boston.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, I estimate we’ve received 4 to 5 inches of snowfall in Gaithersburg, MD. But the depth on the ground is quite uneven, because the snow has been blowing around all day.
I can only give an honest-to-goodness, on-the-ground snow report for my location. I was outside from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the snow became noticeably deeper in that hour. The temperature was 21 at 4 p.m. and 19 at 5 p.m., falling like a knife off a table.
I believe the snow may be easing up a bit here in Gaithersburg, but snow is expected to continue in the Washington area well into the night.
Remember the range of snow predictions reported on Monday? Based on what I saw here in Gaithersburg, and what’s being reported on the Weather Channel, I think accumulations are going to be on the higher side of the range all along the Eastern Seaboard.
They were predicting 4-6 inches in the Washington region. D.C. is definitely going to reach 4 inches. Here in Gaithersburg, we have only a little way to go to reach 6 inches. With snow continuing to fall well into the night, I won’t be surprised if we end up with 8 inches in many parts of Montgomery County, MD, maybe 10 inches in places.
The Philadelphia area already had 8 inches in places and they’re looking at 10 for sure, possibly more. On the northern parts of the East Coast, the prediction of one foot of snow will be met, and probably exceeded. Northern Indiana, with the lake-effect snow, has received 20 inches! More snow is predicted around the Great Lakes and in New England later this week. I have no idea if we’ll get more snow over the weekend here in Maryland, but don’t rule it out.
The snow in Maryland is very cold and seems powdery, but my amateur opinion is that the snow is also heavy with moisture. Power outages from downed tree limbs and utility lines are possible, in my opinion. Please God, don’t let the electricity go out.
These are only my observations for one place in Maryland. You should consult local media for realtime information where you live.
I don’t recommend going out to see conditions for yourself after dark. Sidewalks and roads are icy. I have pictures to prove it. And the uneven depth of snow due to drifting makes it hard to see if you’re on a sidewalk or about to step off a curb.
I have no doubt that frostbite is a danger tonight. I was taking photos for no longer than 10 minutes with my gloves off, and my fingers felt frozen. I had to come inside and warm up. After that, I only slipped the gloves off for a moment at a time.
Right now, I’m beat. Not going outside again tonight! I have lots of photos, and I’ll post some of them, but it will be a few hours. Check back later this evening.
Be careful. Keep your children and your pets close tonight. You won’t believe how cold it’s going to be out there.
— John Hayden