February 4, 2023

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Record January Blizzards in Washington, D.C.

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The memorable 2016 and 1996 January winter storms are the most recent of D.C.’s three January winter storms that rank among D.C.’s overall Top 10 snow events.

WASHINGTON — Nearly seven years have passed since the “Blizzard of 2016,” aka the last epic winter storm in the Nation’s Capital. This major winter storm also enveloped the Mid-Atlantic Region from January 22 to January 23 in 2016. 

While “only” 17.8 inches fell at National Airport, 22.4 inches fell at the National Zoo. Areas west and north of town saw appreciably more. For example, Dulles Airport saw its second largest snow total on record with 29.3 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Totals of more than three feet were observed in central Maryland and parts of Virginia.

The Blizzard of 2016 also ranks as the fourth largest snowstorm on record in Philadelphia with 22.4 inches. It set snowfall records at JFK and LaGuardia Airports (30.6 inches and 28.2 inches respectively) in New York City. Meanwhile, New York City’s Central Park finished with 27.5 inches that set its all-time snowfall record.

Making the January 2016 blizzard even more remarkable is that it followed D.C.’s warmest December on record. Absent this record-setting winter storm, the 2015-2016 winter season would have finished with less than one-third of D.C.’s average annual amount of snow. In the seven years since then, only the 2018-2019 winter season has been snowier than average in the Nation’s Capital.

The January 2016 blizzard was D.C.’s most significant January winter storm since 1996. This storm is also one of only two winter storms to be ranked as a Category 5 or “extreme” storm on NOAA’s “Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale.” This storm brought the Nation’s Capital 17.3 inches of snow on January 6-7, 1996. The January 1996 blizzard was D.C.’s single largest snowfall since the President’s Day 1979 storm (18.7 inches).

With a monthly total of 23.8 inches, January 1996 was the snowiest January in Washington, D.C. since 1935. Unfortunately, a rapid warmup later in the month, combined with heavy rainfall, produced devastating flooding for parts of the D.C. Metro Region.

The memorable 2016 and 1996 January winter storms are the most recent of D.C.’s three January winter storms that rank among D.C.’s overall Top 10 snow events. Number one is the infamous “Knickerbocker Storm,” which brought a record 28.0 inches in January 1922. However, the “Blizzard of 2016” remains the second largest snowstorm to occur at National Airport since it opened in 1941.

Here is a list of our top four snows overall as measured at area airports.

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2023-01-13 03:35:52

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