Record-setting snowfall arrives days before spring

By Katie Demeria

Spring officially begins Thursday, but winter is not yet willing to release its grip on the valley.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Carl Barnes, the accumulation Monday and Sunday reached record highs.

At the valley’s closest climate observing site, Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., 6.6 inches broke the 1978 record of 1.6 inches Sunday, and 3.4 inches Monday broke the previous 1.9 inch record, set in 1965.

“So getting large accumulating storms like this around this time of year is definitely rare,” Barnes said.

Stephens City recorded 9 inches of snow by 9 a.m. Monday, while Strasburg reported 9.2 inches. Warren County saw the highest amount, with a foot accumulating in Karo.

The winter storm warning the weather service issued for the area started at 5 p.m. Sunday and was canceled a few hours before its 2 p.m. scheduled end time Monday, when snowfall began tapering.

The beginning of the meteorological spring is actually the first of March, Barnes added. He said these kinds of systems are more and more unusual as the month continues.

According to Barnes, the record-breaking accumulation is likely to stick around for a few days.

“I really wouldn’t expect to see any sunshine until Thursday,” he said.

Temperatures should rise by the end of the week, with highs in the mid to upper 50s Thursday and lower to mid 60s by Friday.

Those highs are more typical for this time of year.

“For Dulles our typical high temperature for today is 55,” Barnes said Monday.

Residents are seeing the effects of the late season snow. Mike Aulgur of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative said Sunday evening around 1,350 members in Shenandoah County were without power.

Though Aulgur said members may see outages fluctuating, by 5 p.m. SVEC was reporting that all members in Shenandoah County had restored power.

“The snow is still falling, and continuing to melt,” he said Monday. “And in some cases, when it melts and falls, it makes contact with the lines or causes a limb to make contact briefly with a line, and subsequently it will cause a fault in our system.”

Faults are designed to shut off power in order to protect consumers down the line and SVEC’s own facilities. Crews will be out all day repairing lines, Aulgur said.

Motorists were impacted by the unseasonable snowfall, as well.

The Virginia State Police reported responding to 359 traffic crashes between midnight and 10 a.m. Monday. Of those incidents, 105 occurred in the Culpeper district, which includes Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick Counties.

Sandy Myers of the Viginia Department of Transportation said the biggest difference between Monday’s storm and the one that hit on March 3 is the fact that the cold has not impacted the chemicals used to treat the roads — it should be warm enough for the chemicals to remain effective.

“We still want people to be aware of the refreezing issue, though,” Myers warned. “Just because they see bare pavement doesn’t mean there’s not ice on there. They should still be cautious in the morning.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com