A December Snowfall for the Maryland History Records

Posted on December 21, 2009

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It’s official. Baltimore received 21.1 inches of snow in the winter snowstorm that roared up the Interstate-95 corridor Friday and Saturday. Almost all the snow in Maryland fell on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, which otherwise would have been one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

You can tell your grandchildren that you lived through the deepest pre-Christmas snow in Maryland. The 21.1 inches by far beat the old December record for Baltimore, 14.9 inches in 1960.

You can read a full, in-depth report on all-time previous snow records in Baltimore at Frank Roylance’s Weather Blog, including the top 20 snowstorms since 1891. The December 2009 storm will now move into seventh-place on the all time list.

Today marks the Winter solstice, shortest day of the year. (And we’ve probably already experienced our biggest snow storm for the winter.)

It comes as no surprise to lifelong Marylanders that only two of the previous top-20 snows were in December, in 1960 and 1932. We rarely have significant snowfalls before Christmas in Maryland.

The month of February leads the list with eight of the top-20 storms, and January is next with five storms. What may surprise some is that five of the all-time snows hit in March!

Of the previous top-20 storms, 16 recorded a foot or more of snow. But only seven topped 20 inches. This past weekend’s storm makes eight storms with over 20 inches of snow since 1891. (That’s fewer than one 20-inch storm per decade.)

In Ocean City, we had a gale warning in effect during the storm, with gusts over 35 mph, but we received hardly any snow accumulation. And most of that snow melted on Sunday.

The weekend’s storm was an economic bust for Christmas shopping. It will be interesting to see how much of that buying switched to the Internet.

Does this month’s record snowstorm mean we’re inoculated against another big snow this winter? Statistically speaking, it would be unlikely to have two top-20 storms in the same year. It’s never happened before, since 1891.

The distribution of the top-20 snows over the 14 decades since 1891 shows some statistical anomalies. The 1960s and the 2000s had more than their share of the big ones. There were four top-20 storms in the 1960s, and five in nine years, from 1958 to 1966! But all of those 1960s storms were in the second tier, with no more than 15.5 inches of snow.

This December’s storm is the fourth big snowstorm since Y2K. The 2000s also have the all-time record snow for Baltimore, 28.2 inches in February 2003. — Bernie Hayden

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