A major winter storm appears on-track to wallop the Washington, DC, metropolitan area with heavy snow beginning late tonight and continuing through much of the weekend. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the DC metro area stating, in part, that ‘accumulations of 10 to 20 inches’ are expected.

The Capital Weather Gang, a group of weather bloggers with a solid, conservative [read: realistic] track record of accumulation predictions, estimate 8-16″ for much of the region with 10-18″ in some areas. They characterize this storm as a ‘Major Event’ for the DC area and predict widespread hazardous road conditions.

Those of us who have lived a long time in the DC area know that this area doesn’t handle snow very well. The various Departments of Transportation have an annoying tendency to spontaneously forget to treat major highways, and the MetroRail system was apparently designed to fail if exposed to winter precipitation (because they have exposed electronics [!] on train underbellies). Drivers in the region seem to fall into two camps: one, those that refuse to go anywhere at all even days after most of the roads are clear; and two: those (usually with SUVs) who believe you can drive on snow at full speed as if the road is perfectly clear. Reality, as usual, is in-between.

Off on a Tangent recommends the following: don’t be afraid of a little bit of snow, but don’t drive like an idiot either. 4WD and AWD vehicles are generally good in winter weather, but every car has 4-wheel braking and every car will take longer to stop than it would in clear conditions and any car can spin-out if you take a turn too fast on a slick highway. So, even in your 4WD and AWD cars, drive careful. If you don’t have to go anywhere, don’t. Make sure you have enough supplies at home to last you a couple of days.

Have fun and be safe!