Q: How much snow am I going to get?
A: Here's a snowfall forecast issued on Thursday morning and valid through Sunday morning.
Q: Where do I live on that map?
Q: Yeah but how much snow am I going to get?
A: Your town could get 8-12" of snow from this storm, less if ice mixes in.
Q: Yeah but how much snow will we get exactly???
A: Did I stutter?
Q: lol okay really though what's really going to happen are they hyping this?
A: No, this isn't hype, and what you see in the forecast is what they really think is going to happen. Weather forecasting isn't a grocery store—we don't keep the good forecasts in the back, and we don't benefit from hype since our reputations are on the line. Hype is driven by the management side of news operations that care more about ratings/revenues than the true newsworthiness of an event.
Q: When will the worst happen?
A: Friday through Saturday
Q: Is this really the worst storm that's ever happened?
A: This storm has a chance to break snowfall records in several places. It could be one of the top two or three storms ever recorded in Washington D.C., for example, and if it stays all snow, cities in southern Virginia and North Carolina could come close to breaking all-time records.
Q: When was the last time we had a storm like this?
A: The last time you had a storm this bad in the Mid-Atlantic was during the blockbuster blizzard fest during the winter of 2009-2010, when you had something like three major snowstorms in a one- or two-month window. Farther south, with an exception here or there, this is probably going to be the biggest storm since the Blizzard of 1996, if not earlier than that.
Q: I have a flight out of Dulles at 8:30 PM on Friday.
A: Not anymore.
Q: Will the next flight be cancelled?
Q: What about Saturday?
Q: When will the airports reopen?
A: It's not so much an issue of the airport being closed as it is the airlines cancelling all of their flights. Airplanes and frozen precipitation don't play well together, and airlines aren't thrilled with the sight of planes full of people falling out of the sky.
Q: will skol b closd 2mrw?????
A: For your sake, I hope not.
Q: I wish I had a job where you could be wrong all the time and still get paid!
A: I hope your pants rip when you're far away from home.
Q: If the high is going to be 27°F, why are we expecting freezing rain instead of snow?
A: There's a shallow layer of warm air a few thousand feet above the ground, completely melting the snowflake before it reaches the ground. The melted snowflake—a raindrop!—re-enters the subfreezing air at the surface and freezes on contact with anything exposed to the elements.
Q: Why is it hailing?
A: It's sleet. Sleet forms through the same process as freezing rain, but the snowflake doesn't completely melt. The remaining ice crystals in the raindrop give the water a nucleus around which to freeze, solidifying the droplet into a tiny ice pellet, or sleet.
Q: My friend's cousin on Facebook said that we're gonna get a—
A: Ignore him.
Q: But my friend says that he's never wr—
A: Ignore. Him.
Q: The Virginia Snowstorm Action Authority 3000 Facebook page said that we're gonna get—
A: That page is also run by your friend's 12-year-old cousin. Ignore it.
Q: Is this El Niño making landfall?
A: That question makes me want to take up drinking.
Dennis graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. Previously running Gawker's weather blog, The Vane, for nearly two years, he currently contributes to Mental Floss, Forbes Science, and occasionally writes for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. Dennis also teamed up with the editors of Outdoor Life to write a book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.