Even as winter-weary Marylanders continued to dig out from under the weekend's blizzard, weather forecasters warned that another storm is bearing down on them Tuesday and Wednesday with at least 5 more inches of snow.
"We're not looking, certainly, at anything as significant as what we just had. But we are looking at the potential for winter-storm-watch-criteria snowfall," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Jackson.
Those criteria start at 5 inches, and that's as far as the weather service could go on Sunday. But private forecasters were looking at computer models and the storm's moisture content and suggesting that much more snow was possible.
Student forecasters at FootsForecast.org, who have been uncannily accurate with storms so far this winter, said we should expect 6 inches or more. However, "if current computer model trends continue," they said, "the potential exists for accumulations to reach or exceed 12 inches."
Forecasters said a strong low-pressure system moving out of the Midwest will merge with another off the Mid-Atlantic coast on Tuesday to create the next snow-maker.
"It's coming from a more northerly track, so there's nowhere near as much moisture available to it," said Jackson, who works at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va.
That means at least 5 inches. For Baltimore, if forecasters are right, it will be all snow, with some mixed precipitation in Southern Maryland.
The timing and track of the storm will determine exactly who gets what.
Some private forecasters weren't shy about venturing their own predictions. Some said a few computer models suggested snow totals as high as 10 to 20 inches.
Others were less dire. On AccuWeather.com, forecaster Evan Myers said, "D.C. and Baltimore probably won't get anything like the last storm, probably just a few inches." The heaviest snow this time will be to the north, from the Pocono Mountains to New York City.
The official forecast from Sterling called for a 60 percent chance of snow in Baltimore on Tuesday, beginning sometime after noon. The high temperature is expected to be near 34 degrees.
Tuesday evening, forecasters said, snow chances rise to 90 percent, diminishing slightly to 80 percent Wednesday night.
More snow adds not just to the local misery quotient. It also could pose a flooding danger if the weather suddenly turns warmer.
"The snow we just had this weekend is very wet … with 2 or 3 inches of liquid equivalent," Jackson said. "We need to pay attention to it if we get a quick warm-up. We haven't got that in the forecast right now. Hopefully, we'll have a nice, gradual warm-up and a good, steady melt. But it does not always work out that way."
If BWI receives as little 3 inches of snow from the new storm, the city will have a new all-time record for total snowfall in a single winter season.
The current record of 62.5 inches was set in the winter of 1995-1996. This winter's total so far is 60.4 inches, according to the weather service.
The 1995-1996 record was established with a punishing series of snowstorms that began Jan. 7 with a whopper that exceeded 22 inches at BWI. Parts of Western Maryland saw as much as 3 feet of snow.
This winter's potential record-breaker has been goosed by two 20-inch-plus storms: one that topped 21 inches on Dec. 18 and 19, and the 24-inch drubbing the region took on Friday and Saturday.
Meteorologists say this is the first winter since snow records began in 1883 that the city has recorded two 20-inch snowstorms in one season.
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Maryland weather blog: Frank Roylance on meteorology