Sneaky nor'easter may dump snow and wreak havoc on parts of the Northeast

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 20, 2019, 12:13:09 PM EDT

The track and strength of a fast-developing storm near the coast will determine the extent of snow, rain and damaging winds in the northeastern United States prior to the end of this week.

The latest indications are that a storm will quickly form near the coast of Virginia and North Carolina on Thursday, one day after the official arrival of spring -- a point in time that historically has seen significant snowstorms and nor'easters.

The potential late-week storm is forecast to spin up just as a shot of colder air migrates southeastward from central Canada.

Should the cold air catch up with the storm quickly enough, it may give the storm a boost of strength and cause it to hug the coast and track northward, rather than remain weak and drift out to sea.

NE Thu snapshot 3/20

Should the storm fail to strengthen and/or remain offshore, the weather will simply trend blustery and chilly with rain and snow showers on Friday to Saturday.

At this time, the hug the coast scenario or even a track slightly inland seems more likely than a path out to sea.

With the hug the coast idea, rain will break out over eastern North Carolina and eastern Virginia during Wednesday night and spread northward.

During Thursday, that rain will reach the upper part of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England. At this point the rain will become heavy at times and winds will increase.

The rain is likely to spread as far west as parts of the Appalachians in the mid-Atlantic states during Thursday to Thursday night.

A brief period of minor coastal flooding can occur in the Northeast. Winds may become strong enough to cause sporadic power outages during Thursday night in New England.

Winds near the coast are likely to blow from the east and southeast during this time. Northeast winds will set up farther inland.

NE Friday Snap Shot 3 pm

All or mostly snow is likely from northeastern New York state to northern New England.

A foot of snow may fall over the Adirondacks and Green and White mountains with several inches at lower elevations from Friday into Saturday.

Somewhere from Pennsylvania to Connecticut and eastern New York state, the air will become cold enough to allow snow or a rain and snow mix.

heaviest snow NE

It may be a close call for rain versus rain and wet snow mix versus an all-out change to accumulating wet snow over the northern part of the Alleghenies, Poconos, Catskills and Berkshires. An "elevation storm" may unfold, where heavy snow falls over the ridges and mostly rain falls in the valleys.

"The exact track of the storm, say right along the coast or a bit farther inland, will determine the rain and snow line and where the heaviest accumulations will be over the interior Northeast," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Wimer.

snowmap NE

"In the United States, the heaviest snow from the storm may be over northern Maine or it may be over northeastern New York state or somewhere in between," Wimer said.

"At this juncture we are probably looking at an AccuWeather StormMax™ of 16 inches in the U.S., but close to 60 centimeters (2 feet) in eastern Quebec."

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How strong the storm becomes will determine how blustery and cold the weather becomes Friday and Saturday throughout the Northeast.

Alert: Strong, damaging winds anticipated with storm

The latest indications suggest the storm will reach its maximum strength somewhere over Maine and New Brunswick on Friday. In this position, high winds are likely throughout the Northeast and whiteout conditions will develop over the northern tier.

Friday Winds NE

Northwesterly winds may become strong enough from Friday to Saturday to break tree limbs and cause sporadic power outages across the Northeast. Gusts are likely to frequent 40-50 mph. However, peak gusts may be in the neighborhood of 60 mph.

Sat winds NE

Despite seemingly benign high temperatures forecast to end the week, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures are likely to dip into single digits, teens and 20s Fahrenheit on Friday and then may dip below zero in the northern tier of the region Friday night.

AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the sneaky storm as the week progresses.

Download the free AccuWeather app to get the latest on the potential coastal storm for the Northeast.

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