Spring Blizzard Targets Eastern New England

By , AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist
March 23, 2014; 12:17 AM ET
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Play video An expert analysis on the snowstorm potential is given in the above AccuWeather.com video.

The potential for a spring snowstorm to unfold along the East Coast continues to be monitored for this coming Tuesday and Wednesday with an all-out blizzard possible for eastern New England and Nova Scotia.

The storm has the potential to spread a swath of snow from the Carolinas to Maine and Atlantic Canada along with possible travel delays and disruptions to daily activities.

A storm moving from the Gulf of Alaska will travel southeastward into British Columbia, Canada, and the northern Rockies this weekend. During early next week, the storm will turn eastward over the Central states, where it will bring spotty snow, a wintry mix and rain.

The storm is likely to reorganize farther east before midweek. A new center of the storm is forecast to develop over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico before strengthening along the East Coast.

The key to whether or not heavy snow falls on the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Conn., and Boston, is how quickly the newer storm center strengthens.

A rapidly strengthening storm is more likely to turn northward along the Atlantic coast and generate heavy snow, gusty winds and rough seas. A storm that is slow to strengthen will likely take a path farther east over the Atlantic Ocean with less wind and a lower risk for coastal flooding.

Even if the rapidly strengthening storm scenario unfolds, how close the storm tracks to the coast will determine the coverage area of the significant snowfall.

At this early stage, there is a chance that the storm will bring snow to portions of the southern Appalachians and areas farther east over upstate South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula on Tuesday.

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The storm may then either slam or graze New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, New York and New England with windswept snow and strong winds Tuesday night through Wednesday.

If the storm develops to its full potential and remains close enough to the East Coast, parts of New England could be faced with an all-out blizzard before the storm barrels into Atlantic Canada on Wednesday.

Where the snow falls at night and first thing in the morning, the odds are greater for an accumulation on roads. However, the warming effect of the March sun during the midday and afternoon could only be negated by a very heavy snowfall rate.

According to AccuWeather Chief Operating Officer Evan Myers, "Where heavy wet snow falls on areas where trees are budding and blossoming in the South, there is a greater risk of downed tree limbs and power outages with the storm."

Southern cities that have a chance of snow or a rain/wet snow combination include Charleston and Beckley, W.Va.; Knoxville and Bristol, Tenn.; Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.; Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Richmond, Charlottesville and Roanoke, Va.

There are some similarities and differences with this storm setup to the March 24-25, 1983, snowstorm in the Carolinas.

According to Southern Weather Expert Frank Strait, "The '83 storm formed over the northern Gulf of Mexico, strengthened and unloaded 6-10 inches of snow from central and upstate South Carolina to central and northeastern North Carolina."

The strengthening storm tapped into cold air and caused rain to change to heavy wet snow in parts of the South. Since the 1983 storm started as rain, the change to heavy snow caught many people by surprise.

"There is a chance we see a similar outcome in terms of snow compared to 1983," Strait said. "It is the difference in the upper atmosphere that could allow the storm to turn northward along the coast, instead of forcing it eastward and out to sea like the storm from '83."

Details and updates on the potential East Coast snowstorm for next week will unfold on AccuWeather.com in the coming days.

Preceding and following the storm next week will be a blast of cold air.

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