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Return of cold air to raise snowstorm risk for eastern US next week

By By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist.
February 21, 2016, 5:43:42 AM EST

After a taste of spring this weekend, colder air will return to the Eastern United States next week and put parts of the region at risk for a snowstorm.

Highs in the 30s and 40s F will replace 50- and 60-degree temperatures from this weekend. The interior of northern New England will even occasionally have high temperatures held to the 20s next week.

Just enough cold air may seep in at a key time to allow snow to fall during all or part of one or two storms from the Ohio Valley to portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts during the Tuesday to Thursday time frame.

Before this more widespread winter storm threat, "A storm may connect with the arriving colder air to lead to a narrow swipe of wet snow or rain changing to snow from Pennsylvania to southern New England at the end of this weekend," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said.


The pattern next week will allow an active storm track to unfold across the eastern U.S. with two storms set to track from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Seaboard.

If the first system is the stronger of the two, odds favor one widespread round of snow and rain for the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The second storm and its impacts will then likely track farther offshore.

On the other hand, there could be back-to-back snow or rain for some communities if the first storm is weaker and allows the second to follow in its footsteps.

"[Even just one storm next week] has the potential to be disruptive to travel because it could cover a large area with a variety of weather," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.

Impacts will range from heavy snow and potentially strong winds on the northwest side of the storm track to locally flooding rain and thunderstorms south and east of the storms' centers.

"Near the rain/snow line, you could go from a slushy area to icy area to snow-packed area to wet area in just a few miles," Abrams said.

Which form of precipitation falls will depend on the exact track and strength of each storm.

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"The challenge now is that even though we see that a storm will develop, it has not formed yet," Abrams said. "Until it does develop, its exact path and full effects cannot be pinpointed at this time."

A storm path just inland of the coast would result in a warmer scenario in the swath from the Interstate 95 corridor to the beaches with mostly rain.

A storm track slightly offshore might allow coastal areas to be cold enough for snow during all or most of the storm.

The air is more likely to be cold enough to support all or mostly snow from the Appalachians to parts of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and eastern Great Lakes. In part of this area, the question will be how far west the moisture travels.

How strong each storm becomes will determine the amount of wind and extent of coastal flooding. Given the timing of the storm, the highest astronomical tides related to the full moon will occur a couple of days ahead of the storm.

"Tides, however, will still be higher than average," Abrams said.

As was the case with the last winter storm, there is concern that severe weather may accompany the storms next week.

"With warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, severe thunderstorms may become a threat in parts of the Southeast states," Abrams said. "The cold air coming in ahead and in the wake of the storm next week will not be nearly as cold as the outbreak that occurred over the Valentine's Day weekend."

Keep checking back with AccuWeather in the coming days as more details will become clear on temperature trends, timing and whether the storm(s) will track along the coast, inland or slightly offshore.


Content contributed by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

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