Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gathering Storm

My, but it was cold this morning when I went to the airport (KBDR) to give N631S a "pre-pre-flight" inspection in anticipation of an afternoon flight to the DC area. There was 10 knots of wind out of the north and the thermometer offered 14 Fahrenheit degrees. Really, really cold...this was the METAR:
KBDR 181152Z AUTO 34010KT 10SM CLR M10/M19 A3027 RMK AO2 SLP251

I stowed the baggage and proceeded to check out the airplane. Uh-oh...the nav lights didn't light. Cycling the switch several times was of no help. Bad news, as I was certainly not going to be arriving at KVKX before dark. So, off to see the Three Wing maintenance folks. Tony said they'd pull N631S into the hangar and have a look; I suggested that I needed to be ready for a 21Z departure as the weather from the south was threatening to arrive in my home area around 00Z.

As the day progressed I watched the weather and became a bit uncertain about the conditions I could expect at KVKX on arrival. Better move up the departure! I called ThreeWing and asked them to try to have the airplane ready for a 20Z departure.

Arriving at KBDR a bit before 20Z it was hard to believe that weather was going to be an issue. Conditions were quite pleasant, with clear skies, a zephyr of wind out of the northwest and a temperature just a degree below freezing. Here's the METAR:
KBDR 181952Z 32005KT 10SM CLR M01/M20 A3016 RMK AO2 SLP214

And, at that time, destination weather looked good. Here's the METAR for KDCA, offering little wind and a 9,000 foot ceiling:
KDCA 181952Z 08003KT 10SM BKN090 BKN250 02/M08 A3015 RMK AO2 SLP207

The forecast was indicating that snow would begin in the DC area around 01Z and I wanted to arrive well before that event. The good news today was that winds aloft were relatively light. The computer projected a flight time of about 2 hours + 14 minutes.

I was off the runway at KBDR at 2017Z. Flight conditions along the route were as forecast and N631S and I arrived in the DC area about 2220Z. As we approached KVKX for a visual approach to landing, this METAR was current at KDCA:
KDCA 182152Z 14003KT 10SM BKN110 OVC150 01/M08 A3013 RMK AO2 SLP203

I was on the runway at KVKX at 2232Z. It's good that I completed the trip in a timely fashion. Snow began to fall at KDCA at 0133Z, just two hours later.
KDCA 190139Z 08006KT 10SM -SN OVC030 00/M10 A3005 RMK AO2 SNB33 P0000

I suppose I could have been comfortable with a departure about 30 minutes later than actual, but an hour would have been cutting it too fine.

In any event, here is the flight track courtesy of FlightAware. Note the approaching weather in the southwestern quadrant.

It appears that we will be getting something between 14 and 20 inches of snow here in northern Virginia over the next 24 hours. The latest forecast for KDCA is certainly full of snow:
KDCA 182320Z 1900/1924 12004KT 5SM -SN BR BKN015 OVC030
FM190200 06007KT 1SM -SN BR BKN005 OVC010
TEMPO 1903/1905 1/2SM SN BKN001
FM190500 03009KT 1/2SM SN BKN003 OVC005
TEMPO 1905/1909 1/4SM +SN VV001
FM190900 02014G23KT 1/4SM +SN BKN001 OVC005
FM191500 36015G25KT 1/4SM +SN OVC004
FM192300 36014G23KT 3/4SM -SN BKN003 OVC010

That's calling for heavy snow from about midnight tonight until about 6 PM local time tomorrow. It's nice when the timing of a flight works out.

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