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Two storms will affect different parts of the Northeast this weekend, but only because the storms will remain separate will widespread heavy snow be avoided throughout the region.
A fight with dry air versus snow will unfold across the northeastern United States as progressively colder conditions settle in through this weekend.
Moisture, merging storms are needed for a widespread and heavy snowfall
Accompanying the cold weather will be dry air. However, the air will first pick up some moisture crossing the Great Lakes, where bands of lake-effect snow are in store through Friday morning. The air will eventually pick up a great deal of moisture but not until it reaches the immediate Atlantic coast.
For part of the Northeast, a cold and dry scenario will unfold, away from the lake-effect snow bands. The coldest air of the season so far will gradually take root.
Temperatures may be no higher than the 30s F with nighttime lows in the 20s F from Philadelphia to Boston on Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures may be just a few degrees higher in Washington, D.C.
Two storms will attempt to organize the moisture that is available as cold air deepens through Sunday.
Since these two storms are likely to remain separated, they will be unlikely to bring a big snowfall to most locations. However, it often takes only a small amount of snow to cause travel problems, especially early in the season.
Both storms will produce a zone of snow. Part of the region will receive heavy snow from at least one of the storms.
First storm to graze coastal mid-Atlantic but score a hit on New England
The first storm is forecast to spread rain across the Deep South through the end of the week. On the northern fringe of this storm, the air will be cold enough for sleet, snow or a wintry mix.
As this first storm reaches the coast, it will turn northward.
At this time, it appears the most likely scenario is for much of the interior mid-Atlantic to be spared a significant snowfall. In fact, people from West Virginia to central New York state may not even see a flake of snow from the first storm.
An exception is most likely near the coast in the mid-Atlantic. In these areas, some sort of rain and snow combination is anticipated from late Friday night through Saturday. Some of the snow will melt as it falls.
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Some snow is forecast for New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Roads in much of the swath from southeastern Virginia to southeastern New Jersey and Long Island, New York, are likely to be mainly wet with perhaps a few slushy spots.
The situation is evolving differently for New England.
The storm is forecast to strengthen enough to throw steadier precipitation across central and eastern New England. At least some of that precipitation will fall in the form of accumulating snow.
"Portions of Connecticut, northern Rhode Island, central Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire are likely to receive a few inches of snow from the storm mainly during Saturday night," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.
Roads are likely to become slushy in parts of southern New England and snowcovered in portions of Maine.
Only if the storm stalls and attempts to merge with a storm from the Midwest would a swath of heavy snow blanket areas farther west.
"It may be a close call with accumulating snow versus melting snow from New York City to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk. "New York City will have a better chance at an inch or two accumulation, since some of the snow will fall during Saturday night."
Parts of Maine, eastern Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of Canada stand the best chance of heavy snow, since the coastal storm will have more time to mature Saturday night. Some of these areas may receive upwards of 6 inches (15 cm) of snow.
Second, moisture-starved storm to bring snow showers
A second storm is most likely to bring patchy snow, snow showers and the chance of a small accumulation to part of the interior Northeast, aside from lake-effect snowfall from Saturday night to Sunday.
"This clipper storm has the potential to bring a few hours of steady snow and slippery travel to parts of the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians later Saturday and Saturday night," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark.
By the time the second storm crosses the Appalachians, Atlantic Ocean moisture may be out of reach for most areas to receive big snow.
However, even a small amount of moisture available for the second storm may be enough to cause some trouble.
Brief snow showers may be heavy enough to coat the ground quickly in parts of the southern Appalachians to much of eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and eastern New York state.
Motorists traveling at high speed on the major highways should be on the alert for rapid changes to visibility and road surface conditions from Saturday night to Sunday.
Waves of cold air to trigger more opportunities for snow
Cold air will continue to roll southeastward from northern Canada through the third week of December.
"Riding along with the waves of cold air will be fast-moving clipper storms that can put down some snow over the Ohio Valley and the Northeast," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.
"As these storms reach the Atlantic coast, slow down and turn northward, one or more [of the features] will bring the potential for steady snow in part of the Northeast versus snow showers," Pastelok said.
There is also the chance of one or two of the clipper storms joining up with storms emerging from the Deep South, which can unleash heavy snow over a larger area.
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