National Weather Service Introduces Zone Forecasting to More Local Counties

The National Weather Service is changing the way it issues warnings and alerts, switching to zone forecasting, which divides some counties in half.

“As you get out toward northern Montgomery County, western Loudoun County where we’re going to break these zones off, you’re talking about 25-30 inches on average for a typical winter, where as you get closer to the city it’s more like 15,” said Chris Strong of the National Weather Service.

Howard County joins Montgomery and Loudoun counties in being divided by the National Weather Service as of Wednesday. Fauquier and Allegany counties were previously divided.

“Over these high population counties, we wanted to refine our warning so we could hit the people we want to and not alert the people that aren’t going to get something,” Strong said.

Last year, Montgomery County Public Schools closed for 10 school days, with heavy accumulations in up county and often much lighter snowfall just a few miles south.

The new zone forecasting won’t affect how MCPS determines when to declare snow days.

“Ultimately our decision is about the safety of the roads and the ability of students and staff to get to their schools,” said Dana Tofig of MCPS. “Our staff doesn’t necessarily live near the schools where they work.”

The decision on whether to close schools will remain countywide.

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