Midweek winter storm: Rain and storms to drench I-95; Snow to target Midwest
By By Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist
February 23, 2016, 5:14:15 AM EST
A widespread winter storm remains on track to target the eastern-third of the U.S. at midweek with disruptive snow, icy mix, rain and severe thunderstorms.
“[The storm Wednesday and Thursday] has the potential to be disruptive to travel because it will cover a large area with a wide variety of weather,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.
After being preceded by a weaker system that will spread rain and thunderstorms across the South to start the new week, the impending storm will take shape across the southern Plains on Tuesday.
Latest indications take the storm west of the Appalachian Mountains Wednesday into Thursday. This track may lead to soaking rain, severe thunderstorms and gusty winds along the Atlantic Seaboard. In the Midwest, snow or rain changing to snow is expected. An icy mix will fall at times in the interior Northeast.
Jump to: Drenching rain, gusty winds to target Northeast’s I-95 corridor | Storm to start as icy mix in interior Northeast | Disruptive snow to unfold in the Midwest | Severe storms may erupt across southeastern US this week
Warm air will set the stage for potentially severe thunderstorms from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore on Wednesday. The steadiest rain will target the Northeast’s I-95 corridor Wednesday night into Thursday.
“From Philadelphia to Boston, the rain may be heavy enough to cause ponding on roadways Wednesday night and may slow the Thursday morning commute,” AccuWeather Meteorologist BrianThompson said.
Airline passengers should prepare for delays.
While there may be isolated incidents, the risk of flash flooding will not be as high as the last winter storm. The ground is not as cold and more capable of absorbing the rain’s runoff.
Strong, gusty winds will also develop along the Northeast coast, heightening the risk of sporadic power outages and flight delays. Minor coastal flooding may also develop at high tide.
Even with a track west of the Appalachian Mountains, a period of wintry weather is possible in the interior Northeast, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Baker said.
“As moisture first moves into the area, parts of interior Pennsylvania and New York will still have temperatures near or below freezing near the ground,” Baker said.
“This may allow for some light freezing drizzle or freezing rain to develop across parts of central Pennsylvania and into the southern tier of New York Tuesday evening into early Wednesday.”
The icy mix will graze the northern and western suburbs of New York City and Boston before spreading to northern New England on Wednesday with more snow on its front end.
Given the projected path of the storm, the period of wintry weather in the interior Northeast should not be as prolonged as during the last winter storm.
If the storm travels farther east than latest indications, the period of snow and ice could be more prolonged.
Even if the wintry weather is brief, motorists should not let their guard down for slick travel until the changeover to rain occurs. Roads may once again turn slippery on Friday in the northern Appalachians as colder air rushes in on the backside of the storm and snow showers develop.
Colder air feeding into the western side of the storm will allow snow to fall or a soaking rain to change to snow from the Ohio Valley to the Great Lakes Wednesday into Thursday.
Cities facing snow and slippery travel during all or a part of the storm include St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Snow will start across Missouri, Illinois and Michigan Tuesday night into early Wednesday.
"Rain and snow across the western Ohio Valley will gradually change to all snow by Wednesday night,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Becky Elliott said.
The changeover from rain to snow should spread to the spine of the Appalachian Mountains by Thursday.
“The Thursday morning commute will be hazardous and residents should use extreme caution if heading out,” Elliott said.
The heart of the snowstorm looks to unfold from Illinois through Michigan into southern Ontario and central Quebec. Within this zone, snow totals can top six inches.
“Moderate to heavy snowfall will disrupt travel as roadways become snow-covered,” Elliott said.
In addition to travel hazards, enough snow may fall to lead to school closures, disruptions to daily routines and flight delays or cancellations. Gusty winds can blow and drift the snow around, further reducing visibility and creating treacherous travel for motorists.
Where the storm starts as rain, roads will initially remain wet after the changeover to snow due to the warmth stored up in the ground from the recent mild spell. The snow will gradually stick and wet spots will turn icy as colder air arrives and/or if the snow comes down heavily.
The heavy, wet snow may prove difficult to shovel, especially as temperatures plunge.
Even west of where the storm’s snow falls, all of the Midwest will be chilled by the invading cold and brisk winds later this week. However, an even harsher blast of arctic air may then sweep from the Midwest to Northeast next weekend or early in the following week.
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