Spring snowstorm snarls travel in Northeast, unleashes biggest storm of season for some

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 22, 2018, 11:01:00 AM EDT

  • Long-duration storm to bring heavy, wet snow in part of Northeast.
  • Risk of downed trees, regional power outages.
  • Moderate coastal flooding, beach erosion likely.
  • Travel to become dangerous, especially on secondary roads.
  • Expect flight delays and cancellations.

The storm will continue to produce snow and cause travel disruptions from parts of the Midwest and southern Appalachians to the mid-Atlantic and coastal New England during the first couple of days of spring.

Spring officially arrived at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 20.

The storm, a double-barreled system, is evolving into the fourth nor'easter of the month.

"Snow will affect millions across the northeast into Thursday. As AccuWeather predicted in its long-range winter forecasts back in October, March has proven to be an active month with this being the fourth powerful Nor’easter in a month. Flight cancellations, transportation delays, and damage to personal property from falling trees and power lines will cause this to be yet another high-impact economic disruption," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Long-Range Forecaster David Samuhel said.

Long-duration snow, wintry mix for some areas

The slow forward speed of the storm duo will continue to produce snow from Ohio, Kentucky, eastern Tennessee and North Carolina to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and southeastern New York state into Wednesday night in some cases.

For part of this area, the storm has the potential to bring the greatest snowfall of the winter and early spring.

The heaviest snowfall is expected from the mountains of western Maryland northeastern West Virginia eastward through the Lower Susquehanna Valley and northern suburbs of Baltimore. It is in part of this area where more than a foot of snow is in store.

However, the amount of snow that accumulates on grassy areas and on vehicles will be much greater than what accumulates on roads and sidewalks.

Static Snowfall Map Close Up 1 pm

Prior to this storm, Washington, D.C., has only received 3.7 inches of snow this season, compared to an average of 14.7 inches to this date. Baltimore has received about 54 percent of its seasonal average of 19.3 inches.

Cities such as Hagerstown, Maryland; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Winchester, Virginia, and York, Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, may all have their heaviest snowfall this year from this storm.

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In New England, most of the snow will be confined to coastal areas in the south and east.

In the area from northern Ohio to northern Pennsylvania, much of the Hudson Valley of New York state and central New England, snow may struggle to accumulate despite lower temperatures. The rate of snow in this area will tend to be lighter than in parts of West Virginia, northern Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, New Jersey and Long Island, New York.

Static Snowfall Map Out 1 pm

As the storm over the Ohio Valley begins to weaken, the coastal storm will strengthen into Wednesday night.

As this coastal storm moves northeastward, snow will spread northward to eastern Massachusetts and coastal areas of New Hampshire and Maine.

"Anyone from just north of Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York City and close to Boston may easily pick up 6-12 inches of snow with the storm with locally higher amounts," according to AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Rich Putnam.

NE snowfall 5 am Tue static

"In New York City, temperatures look to be slightly lower for this storm, compared to other storms in recent weeks," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek. "That may translate to perhaps more snow on the roads in the five boroughs of New York, especially during the evening hours on Wednesday."

The same is especially true for Center City Philadelphia compared to prior storms this month.

Roads to stay mainly wet outside of heavy snow area, while flight delays will be likely

Except where the snow falls at a furious rate, or at a moderate pace at night, much of the snow is likely to melt as it falls on paved surfaces like roads in urban areas due to the warming effects of the March sun.

Motorists and pedestrians should expect slippery and slushy conditions on elevated surfaces, such as bridges, overpasses and decks, and in rural areas or locations that do not receive much direct sunlight during the day.

Even though a significant amount of snow may melt on the roads, motorists may want to avoid venturing out during the height of the storm as conditions may change from one minute to the next and one mile to the next with this setup.

In forested areas, there will be the potential for trees and power lines to fall and block secondary roads.

Airline delays are likely due to deicing operations, poor visibility and a low cloud ceiling. A number of flights may be canceled as well.

Prolonged winds to threaten minor damage; Moderate coastal flooding possible

In terms of wind, this will not be a powerhouse storm like the nor'easters that struck earlier this month.

However, in some spots, moderately strong winds are in store for a longer duration when compared to each of the three earlier storms.

Peak gusts along the coast are projected to be between 40 and 50 mph. A few gusts may approach this level in parts of the central and southern Appalachians by midweek.

Static Risk Map 1 pm

Sporadic power outages may evolve into regional power outages from part of the the central Appalachians to the upper mid-Atlantic and New England coasts due to the combination of gusty winds and heavy snow.

Motorists and pedestrians should watch for falling tree limbs in wooded areas.

Because of the 24- to 36-hour period of moderate onshore winds, moderate beach erosion and coastal flooding are likely, especially at times of high tide.

Fortunately, since the new moon occurred a couple of days ago, this storm will not be synchronized with the new or full moon, when astronomical tides are highest.

At peak, tides are likely to run 2-3 feet above average from northern Delaware to southern Maine.

Some minor back bay flooding may occur from North Carolina to New Jersey as the storm begins to move away at midweek.

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