Inside the Beltway

Catch My Drift?


illustration of people playing in the snow on campus

Snow days in DC are a rare treat—"a gift from God," according to Urban Dictionary. (The irreverent, crowdsourced website's second definition, "a day to relax," applies only to those without school-aged children.) 

Seasonal totals vary wildly in the District, from 0.1 to 56.1 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has recorded snowfall in the nation's capital since January 1888. Although seven months of the calendar year in DC have seen accumulating snow, Washingtonians are most likely to get a day off (or the next best thing—a late opening) between mid-January and mid-February, when 75 percent of the city's flakes tend to fall. November snow events are as rare as a yeti sighting, although DC did see 11.5 inches of powder in the eleventh month of 1987. 

Even though the District is known more for its inability to deal with snow than the amount of snow that actually falls, the city has seen some sizable storms, from the Knickerbocker snowstorm of 1922 (28 inches) to Snowmageddon in 2010 and Snowzilla in 2016, both of which tied at 17.8 inches. Twenty-five storms have dumped at least 10 inches of powder on Washington since 1988. If you were to pile up all of the flakes that have fallen on DC over the last 129 years—2,302.41 inches, or nearly 192 feet—it would bury the Lincoln Memorial twice over. (Sorry, Abe.)

AU snow daze

Most AU students weren't even snowflakes in their parents' eyes when winter weather caused the university to close for a record six days in 1979. Snowmageddon remains the high-water mark for forcing the most consecutive days—four—of shuttered doors. The only other time AU closed for that long was in January 1999, when the lights were out for five consecutive days due to cold temperatures, ice storms, and power outages. Other significant snows fell in 1942, 1966, 1983, 1987, 2003, and 1958, when the Eagle reported snowdrifts up to five feet on campus and winds of 50 miles per hour.

What will this season bring? According to the Farmers' Almanac, the Mid-Atlantic region will likely experience a "wintry chill, wet and white." Bring on the hot chocolate.