- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2013

Thanks to a record-setting heat wave, the District won’t be getting a white Christmas. But with more people on the road and in the air, travel officials said, the clear weather means fewer headaches and more time with family.

Christmas Eve will be blustery and chilly, National Weather Service officials said Monday, while Christmas Day is likely to be just as cold but with blue skies.

“We do have some scattered flurries possible for Tuesday, but no accumulation,” meteorologist Amy Bettwy said. “We are having a cold front coming through. It’s going to feel a lot colder compared to what we’ve been having.”

Weather service records from as far back as 1872 show that Christmas in Washington is normally cold and dry, with a low chance of snow. In the past 129 years, the D.C. area has had a white Christmas 10 times. That’s with at least 0.1 inches of snow, or enough to stick to the ground.

The largest Christmas snowfall, according to weather records, was in 1962, when more than 5 inches blanketed the District.

Ms. Bettwy said Sunday’s temperature of 72 degrees tied the 1889 record high for the D.C. area, and the low temperature of 59 degrees also was a record high.

“The old record was 49 degrees in 1923,” she said. “Our normal high is 45 for this time of year.”

The springlike weather resulted from southerly winds above the D.C. area drawing warm air up and across the East Coast, Ms. Bettwy said. Behind it was a cold front that wreaked havoc across the Midwest and New England, bringing sleet, ice, snow and even a tornado in Arkansas that killed one woman.

At least nine people died as a result of the storm, including five killed by flooding in Kentucky. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power in Michigan, upstate New York and New England because of the weekend storm.

“Because the temperature difference between the warm and cold air was so large, the system was very strong,” Ms. Bettwy said.

She said the rain that drenched the District on Monday would be out of the area by the evening, leaving colder temperatures but dry weather.

Although the absence of snow will make it difficult for sleigh rides or snowmen, AAA Mid-Atlantic officials said, the clear weather will help travelers reach their destinations more quickly and safely.

“Under the best circumstances, we know I-95 is going to be a parking lot, but add any precipitation and it becomes an extremely dangerous parking lot,” said Lon Anderson, AAA spokesman. “Any day we don’t have ice and snow and don’t have precipitation is actually life-saving.”

AAA numbers show that about 2.3 million people in the D.C. area plan to travel for the holiday, and 91 percent of them will be driving.

Pointing out the wide-ranging difference in the weekend storm, Mr. Anderson said travelers should take note of the weather not just at the beginning of their trips but also for their destinations.

“Those are very big numbers,” Mr. Anderson said. “Then you add the fact some people are driving drowsy, they’re driving distracted, and others choose to take the party on the road. Then, of course, you have Mother Nature’s contribution, and it becomes a witch’s brew that results in the deadliest period of the year on our highways.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.