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Weather watchers say White Christmas unlikely

December 24, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Friday may not fully qualify as a white Christmas, but it will likely be a slippery Christmas.

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The National Weather Service forecasted snow, sleet and freezing rain for Wednesday night and this morning, with accumulations between 1 and 3 inches throughout the Tri-State area. The specific forecasts vary slightly from county to county.

Christmas Day will be cloudy with a few flurries, said metrologist Dewey Walston.

If snow accumulates and it stays cold, there could be snow on the ground on Christmas Day for the first time since 1995 when there was an inch of old snow.

But that depends on the fast-changing weather.

"I don't even know anymore after the last few days," Walston said.

In order to have a true white Christmas, however, Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer said it has to snow on Dec. 25. That last happened in 1993.


It has snowed an inch or more on Christmas Day 10 times in the last 100 years, according to Keefer.

Keefer, who has local weather records dating back to 1898, only counts an inch or better as a white Christmas.

"Nobody would really notice it otherwise," he said.

It is actually statistically more likely to be a warm Christmas than a white Christmas. According to Keefer's records, the temperature has reached 50 degrees or warmer on Christmas Day 16 times, most recently in 1994.

It has been warmer than 60 degrees seven times, in 1932, 1933, 1940, 1955, 1964, 1965 and 1982.

For most of this month, a warm Christmas seemed like a sure bet. But a change in the jet stream has brought in cold air from Canada, Walston said. The Christmas Day high will probably not break freezing, he said.

"This is a lot closer to normal than 80 degrees," he said.

Other interesting Christmas Day weather facts and stats include:

  • Most snow: 6.5 inches in 1909.
  • Most snow on the ground from previous storms: 8 inches in 1951 and 1960.
  • Most rain: 1.11 inches in 1979.
  • Coldest: -5 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of -40 degrees in 1983.
  • Warmest: 66 degrees in 1964.
  • Iciest: 1.5 inches of ice and snow in 1910.
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