Is the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm a sign of a rough winter ahead for the eastern US?

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
November 17, 2018, 1:44:40 PM EST

The prospect of near- to below-average temperatures and an active storm track along the coast should bode well for skiers and snow lovers from the interior South to the coastal mid-Atlantic and New England this winter.

While there can be pockets of snow over parts of the Northeast in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, more trouble may be brewing in December in the East.

After examining the latest trends including the behavior of El Niño, Atlantic water temperatures and other factors, AccuWeather's long-range team has made some adjustments to their winter forecast.

"Based on the extent of the snowpack, especially over eastern Canada, we have adjusted our temperature forecast down a bit for this winter in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

Static Temperatures Winter

"The lower temperatures overall are likely to lead to plenty of opportunities for snow in portions of the interior South, the mid-Atlantic and New England," Pastelok said.

A large area of above-average snowfall is forecast to extend from northeastern Texas to southeastern Pennsylvania and much of New Jersey.

Static Snowfall Winter

Above-average snowfall is also forecast for a large part of eastern New England.

"While much of the above-average snowfall was already forecast in the South and mid-Atlantic during the first winter outlook from couple of months ago, the above-average snowfall area was made larger on the northern end in the mid-Atlantic with this latest update because of the latest trends," Pastelok said.

Cities such as Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charlotte, North Carolina; are likely to receive more snow than average.

Washington, D.C., typically picks up about 15 inches of snow, while Philadelphia averages about 22 inches from late fall to the early spring. Atlanta and Charlotte usually pick up a little more than a couple of inches of snow. Nashville averages about 6 inches of snow.

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New York City and Boston are likely to average within a few inches of their respective 26 and 43 inches of snow.

There are indications the stormy pattern may return in December.

One big storm, among others before and after, may hit toward the middle of the month.

"We expect a storm similar to the Nov. 15-16 storm to affect the Northeast with heavy snow and ice sometime during the second to third week of December," Pastelok said.

Long range Nov 17

"The timing of such a storm could negatively impact shipping and travel before Christmas," Pastelok said.

"Demand for snow removal and ice-melting compounds may surge."

During January to February, the storm track is likely to shift southward and eastward.

"This means that the areas from the central and southern mid-Atlantic to eastern New England are likely to be hit hard during January and February," Pastelok said.

"It's also going to be a rough winter in the South Central and Southeast states this winter in terms of ice, snow and cold rain."

Static Precip Winter

Ice may be especially troublesome from the central Gulf Coast states to part of the Tennessee Valley and the mid-Atlantic.

"Florida may have multiple rounds of severe weather during December and January, before it trends colder in February," Pastelok said.

Farther northwest, AccuWeather's long-range team expects snowfall to be near average over the central Appalachians to northwestern New England.

Snowfall, including lake-effect snow, is likely to be below average over much of the Midwest.

"This forecast is based on an inconsistent flow pattern that we expect this winter," Pastelok said.

Normally, the prevailing wind direction is west to northwest across the Great Lakes during the winter. This winter, there may be a great deal of fluctuation.

However, areas from northwestern Indiana to Michigan and northeastern Ohio may have some substantial lake-effect snow events, especially during late-January into early February.

So with above-average wintry precipitation forecast for much of the South and the coastal Northeast, as well as average snowfall over the interior Northeast, travel delays are likely to be frequent and significant, while road and cleanup crews can expect a busy winter.

Download the free AccuWeather app to see what the latest trends are in the long-range forecast as well as upcoming snow, ice and rain events in the short term are for your location.

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