Let it Snow… For the Show

If you revel in the pleasures of winter around Cape Henlopen you might find magic within the magic on the rare and special days when snow blankets the beaches. Whipped by coastal winds and cast against the churning waves, it’s a peaceful sight that invites a sense of quiet celebration of nature and solitude now that the summer crowds are long gone.


Snow en route to beach – Ron MacArthur photo

Meteorologist Shares Memories of Big Snows

That sentiment is shared by Hunter Outten, the Chief Meteorologist of Delmarva’s Channel 14, is one of many locals who shared their favorite memories of big snows and beautiful sights in response to a recent Facebook query:

“The back-to-back snowstorms from January 30th to February 10th in 2010 represented one of the most active snowstorm periods in the past few decades,” he recalls, “And from February 4th through the 6th we had the heaviest snow I’ve ever witnessed, with 30 inches and vivid thundersnow . . . “

Yes, that’s a word – thundersnow. It’s the dramatic combination of thunder, lightning and snow filling the sky, brought on by a collision between warm and cold air during a storm that causes the kind of electrical activity that’s more common in the summer. It’s an amazing thing to see anywhere, but especially above breaking waves.

Snow by boardwalk – Ron Macarthur photo

Forecast for Winter 2021-2022

Unfortunately for our local snow fans, Outten predicts it’s going to be an even rarer sight this year, thanks to the persistent La Nina climate pattern that leads the cold water of the Pacific Ocean to push the jet stream northward, which leads to dryer days in the southern U.S.

“Yearly (snowfall) averages in the last 30 years have dropped for the region,” he says. “If I had to put a number for snowfall amounts this year, I would say 4 to 7 inches at most, and I’m leaning toward the lower end of that spectrum.”

Other factors, Outten adds, also reduce the likelihood of major snowfalls in the future.

“We are surrounded by very warm waters on each side of the peninsula, and water temperatures play a big role . . . especially based on which direction the wind is coming from during snow events. I have found over the last 15 years a more easterly wind component allows the warmer air from the Gulf Stream to come inland, keeping temperatures above freezing.”

Locals Share Memories of Past Storms

Fortunately, many locals have good memories of past storms. 

While Carol Ann Pala recalls cross-country skiing with her husband on the beach in Cape Henlopen State Park after a 2018 storm, Jennifer Hain looks back on photos of neighborhood kids sliding through the snow on boogie boards. 

Todd Manning and Lennea Hoban shared bleakly beautiful photos of the Park’s Naval Jetty surrounded by snow-covered sand and a bundled-up child walking carefully along an icy beach under a cold blue sky at The Point. And Jill Temple Hudson shared a photo of ice that looks as if it was formed by a wave frozen as it broke on the sand after a February 2015 storm. 

Snow by the jetty – Todd Manning photo
Child at Point – Lennea Hoban photo
Ice on the beach – Jill Temple Hudson photo

If you enjoy this kind of scenery, you’ll be glad to know that the beauty isn’t limited to blizzards. Several photos shared for this post were taken during very light storms, and longtime locals know we’re apt to get at least a few of those. 

Which is all the more reason to seize the opportunity to get outside and create your own memories on these rare and wonderful days.