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Pre-Departure Preparation

Washington D.C. Weather

Washington D.C. is a sixty-eight square mile city situated at sea level about thirty miles west of the eastern seaboard. D.C. borders the state of Virginia to the west and borders Maryland to the north, east, and south. The climate in Washington D.C. is marked by four distinct quarterly seasons. The four seasons are more temperate than they are in the northeastern states, but are still well-defined. Washington D.C. is known for its hot, humid summers, pleasant springs and autumns, and relatively mild winters.

Compared to the dry climate of Colorado, D.C. is significantly more humid, particularly in the summer months, when the relative humidity is typically in the high-eighties to low-nineties range. Summer temperatures average in the 70’s to high 80’s, but temperatures above 90 degrees are not uncommon. The heat, combined with high humidity, is what makes the city notorious for having a stifling summer climate. Legend has it that Washington D.C. was built upon swamp land and that its early inhabitants would vacate the city in the summer months to escape the inhospitable, mosquito infested environment. The city was actually built on a marshy floodplain and not on a swamp, but it does live up to its reputation as an oppressively muggy place in the summertime.

While summertime in Washington D.C. is noted for high temperatures and humidity, springtime in D.C. is renowned for its lovely temperatures and for its magnificent display of blossoms. Springtime temperatures average from the 50’s to the 70’s in Washington. Early spring is a bit chilly and then, as the season moves into late April/early May, temperatures become warm and comfortable. Early spring also tends to be rainy and windy, while late spring is characterized by sunny days and perfect warmth. By late April, the city is bursting with colorful and glorious blooms such as daffodils, tulips, lilacs, crocuses, and cherry blossoms. D.C. is a popular destination during this time, as crowds flock to the city to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival and to see spring garden tours.

Autumn, like springtime, is wonderful in Washington D.C. The region enjoys eye catching fall foliage that has a striking color spectrum similar to what you see in the northeast. Early fall days can be quite warm and the temperatures cool down in the evenings. As the fall progresses, daytime temperatures become crisp and evenings are chilly. The average temperature for fall in D.C. ranges from about 50 degrees to the high 70’s, depending on the specific month.

People often say that Washington D.C. winters are mild, but how you characterize the season is relative to your personal experience. As compared to upstate New York, Vermont, and Minnesota, D.C. winters are relatively moderate, but in the general scheme of things, the season can actually be quite unpredictable and cold in Washington. One day, the weather will be bitter, cold, and icy, and then next few days can bring sunshine and warmer temperatures. The average winter temperature in D.C. is 38 degrees, and temperatures typically range from the 20’s to the 40’s. Every few years, the city can experience a ‘nor’easter’ blizzard that dumps significant snow on the region, but the average snow fall for Washington D.C. is about 20 inches per year (Denver’s average annual snow fall is 60 inches).

Packing List

Before you pack, please review the Dressing Professionally in the Workplace page. Pack clothing that follows the guidelines about how to dress professionally and pack items that will be needed for the specific season that you will be in Washington D.C. Also, please note that some items listed below are season-specific and gender-specific. This is not an exhaustive list, but is just meant to guide you through the packing process.

CU in D.C. Packing List.

Clothing

  • Two or three suits
  • Several ties (male)
  • Formal outerwear like coat to wear to work (depending on season)
  • Casual outerwear like sweatshirts, fleece jacket, or down jacket (depending on season)
  • Sportswear/workout clothes
  • A few pairs of jeans or casual pants
  • Casual shirts
  • Bathing suit (depending on season)
  • Underwear, socks, bras
  • Pajamas
  • One or two CU t-shirts

Personal Items

  • Toiletries (toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, make-up, shaving kit, etc.)
  • Medication (refills and prescriptions)
  • Hairdryer
  • Twin sheets, bedding, and pillow
  • Towels

Technological / Electronic

  • Laptop
  • Ethernet cord
  • Thumb drive
  • Cell phone, iPod, your favorite gadgets
  • A camera if you do not use your cell phone as a camera

Miscellaneous

  • A professional work bag (typically dark in color, formal looking)
  • A few bags to use outside work (weekend trips, exercise, walking around the city on the weekends)
  • ATM card, credit card, check book, cash
  • Important personal documents/identification cards, like driver’s license, social security card, medical insurance card, etc.
  • A new rule states that drivers’ licenses from some states do not comply with Federal identification standards and are not sufficient forms of ID for entering Federal buildings. Bring along a passport or birth certificate.
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle
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