WASHINGTON - Mention the word "snow" in the Washington area, and you risk setting off a panicked stampede to the nearest supermarket for milk, bread and toilet paper.
We're about to run that risk.
One of the computer models that meteorologists use to make their weather forecasts, known as the European model, is holding out the possibility of wintry weather for the Washington area this Saturday, especially in points west of D.C.
If it happens, it could be the first significant October snow in the Washington area since 1979, according to the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog.
Under the European scenario, a low-pressure system will combine with enough cold air during the overnight hours Saturday morning to produce some wet snowflakes.
The problem is, forecasters also rely on another computer model called GFS, and it predicts the low pressure system will be farther up the coast and off the eastern seaboard, leaving only a possibility of plain rain.
"(The European model and GFS) tend to give us different things, different weather situations ... and they tend to, more often than not, disagree, especially about an event that's taking place several days away, like this one," says ABC 7 meteorologist Chris Naille.
Naille says the models are likely to converge as we get closer to the weekend, but till then, the European model will give him and his weather prognosticating colleagues something to talk about.
"The timing of these systems, especially when you're talking about something three, four days away can change so much between each model run," says Naille.
And Naille expects those models will converge into predicting plain old, cold, wet rain by the time we reach the weekend.
"Do I think we could see a wet snowflake or two mixed in? Sure," says Naille. "But do I think those chances are relatively low? You bet."
(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)