Disruptive snow, rain threatens eastern US, Great Lakes this week

By By Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist
February 22, 2016, 2:21:04 AM EST

A winter storm is expected to track from the southern Plains, threatening to unleash a large swath of disruptive snow and rain across the eastern United States and Great Lakes this week.

The springlike start to this weekend has not put an end to the risk of wintry weather in a part of the eastern U.S. and Great Lakes when a winter storm arrives this week.

Latest indications point toward the worst of the winter storm impacting the eastern-third of the U.S. on Wednesday into Thursday.

Ahead of the main storm, a weaker system with rain will track from the Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic to end the weekend. It is not out of the question for the rain grazing places from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to far southern New England to end as wet snowflakes.

Another system will spread rain and thunderstorms across the South early in the new week, while the more potent winter storm for the eastern U.S. takes shape in the southern Plains.

“[The storm next Wednesday and Thursday] has the potential to be disruptive to travel because it could cover a large area with a wide variety of weather,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.


Impacts as the storm converges on the eastern-third of the U.S. range from snow and potentially strong winds on its northwestern side to locally flooding rain and thunderstorms south and east of the storm’s center.

Some of the thunderstorms could turn severe in the South.

In addition to treacherous travel and snow-packed roads, enough snow can accompany the storm to potentially lead to school closures and disruptions to daily routines.

“Near the rain/snow line, you could go from a slushy area to icy area to snow-packed area to wet area in just a few miles,” Abrams said.

Which form of precipitation falls will depend on the exact track and strength of the storm.

A storm track just west of the Appalachian Mountains would result in snow developing and spreading from the Ohio Valley to the Great Lakes with mostly rain for the Atlantic Seaboard.

Odds currently favor this solution unfolding, but others cannot be ruled out at this time.

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A storm path just inland of the East Coast could lead to more wintry weather across the interior Northeast. Mostly rain would still unfold for the I-95 corridor and beaches in this scenario, while the extent of the snow threat in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley would depend on how far west the moisture travels.

Even if the storm tracks west of the Appalachian Mountains, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Baker is still concerned for a period of wintry weather in the interior Northeast at its onset.

“As moisture first moves into the area, parts of the interior of 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 into the southern tier of New York Tuesday night into early Wednesday.”

The danger of minor, yet treacherous icing could expand to the interior of New England in this scenario.

Mostly rain and gusty winds along the I-95 corridor could still result in slower travel for commuters and airline passengers. While there can be downpours, the risk of flash flooding will not be as high as during the last winter storm with the ground not as cold and more capable of absorbing the rain’s runoff.


“How strong the storm becomes will determine the amount of wind and extent of coastal flooding,” Sosnowski said. “Given the timing of the storm, the highest astronomical tides related to the full moon will occur a couple of days ahead of the storm.”

“Tides, however, will still be higher than average,” Abrams said.

Regardless of which scenario pans out this week, colder air will sweep into the eastern U.S. in the storm’s wake. 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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