AccuWeather forecasters tracking snowstorm and severe weather for huge swath of U.S.
Confidence is increasing among AccuWeather forecasters that a large storm system will dump heavy snow and create widespread travel impacts across the central and eastern U.S. later this week.
After a storm brings heavy snow to parts of the Northeast early this week, an even larger storm system will eye areas from the southern Plains to the Midwest, New England and perhaps the mid-Atlantic with snow from Thursday to Friday, AccuWeather meteorologists warn. Widespread travel disruptions will likely occur due to the storm's enormous reach.
The storm will continue to push inland across the Western states into Tuesday with areas of soaking rain and feet of mountain snow before it reorganizes over the Southwest on Wednesday.
The track and strength of the late-week storm over the Central and Eastern states will hold the key to where the dividing line between drenching rain and the risk of flash flooding and road-clogging snow ends up.
"Arctic air will be absent from this system when it initially moves across the central United States, which means the heavy snow threat will need to be generated mainly through the strength of the storm itself," AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said. "An intense storm can overcome a warm atmosphere to generate heavy snowfall, but if this storm is slow to strengthen, snowfall may not be especially heavy over the Central states."
Just enough cold air could be present to allow a heavy, wet snowfall to occur in the central U.S. and reach as far south as portions of Missouri and northwestern Arkansas.
Since recent warmth has caused some trees to leaf out and create more surface area on the tree canopy, a significant amount of wet snow could cause substantial damage to trees and power lines in the region, Benz explained.
As of Monday, areas in the Midwest that will most likely receive the heaviest accumulating and travel-disrupting snow include northeastern Missouri, western and northern Illinois, southeastern Wisconsin, much of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and northwestern Indiana. Major cities that are likely to have major disruptions and direct airline delays and flight cancellations include Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.
Stretches of Interstates 80 and 90 are likely to become snow-covered and treacherous, forecasters say. Wintry issues could also persist farther south along portions of I-70, where more of a wintry mix could be observed. While the heaviest snow is likely to fall over a narrower swath of the Midwest, this wider region stands a good chance of seeing either plowable snow or hazardous, icy conditions.
The storm could strike yet another blow to utility providers in hard-hit Michigan after a major snow and ice storm cut the power to hundreds of thousands of customers in the state last week. Another storm was affecting the region with snow and ice on Monday. As of early Tuesday morning, nearly 150,000 customers in the state were without power, many for over 5 days.
In the Northeast, a number of factors will come into play to determine if snow or rain falls near the coast, the overall extent of rain and wintry mix and the amount of snow that falls.
Snow totals ranging from 1 to 6 inches of were reported around the New York City metro area early Tuesday after the first storm of the week departed. However, the storm was still in progress in much of New England, including the Boston area. More than 100 flights were canceled when factoring in all three of the major airports around New York City, while Boston Logan International Airport had more than four dozen flights canceled as of Tuesday morning, according to flightaware.com.
"A swift forward speed with the storm should prevent a blockbuster snowfall in the Central and Northeastern states," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. However, there may still be a narrow, long swath where the storm drops 6 to 12 inches of snow.
"A storm that tracks from the southern Plains to the Ohio Valley and central Appalachians will keep the heaviest snow closer to the Great Lakes, upstate New York and northern New England," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Courtney Travis said. "A more southern track would bring the opportunity for heavier snow to the central Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and southern New England."
Typically, in this case, a new storm center will form along the mid-Atlantic coast as one storm center tracks over the Central states and weakens.
Water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean have been higher than historical averages this winter, and that has been a factor in the track storms have taken and the primary forms of precipitation along parts of the coastal Northeast. The water temperatures off the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coasts are currently more typical of the middle of spring than late winter, experts say. These warmer waters help push a storm’s dividing line between rain and snow farther inland.
However, a minor atmospheric traffic jam near Greenland has developed over the past week. This type of pattern has not been around much of the winter. The blocking pattern tends to force colder air into the Northeast and keep the colder air in place longer as storms approach. If the block and its associated cold air stick around as the late-week storm approaches, more snow may fall farther south along a more southern storm track.
The upcoming weekend marks the start of spring break for some universities in the region. Travel on the roads and skies could be adversely affected by the storm.
Substantial travel delays are likely where rain falls over portions of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, as well as the southern Appalachians and perhaps the mid-Atlantic region. Downpours will lead to poor visibility and slick conditions on the roads. Gusty winds, fog and low cloud ceilings can lead to major delays at area airports even if the snow stays away from cities such as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
At this time, of all the major hubs in the Northeast, Boston is the most likely city to have winter storm-related delays on Friday. However, the New York City area still has significant potential to pick up snow or a wintry mix from the late-week storm.
The Southern states will experience trouble from the storm as well, with severe thunderstorms in the forecast for a three day span this week.
This threat is set to begin on Wednesday, with thunderstorms drifting from northeast Texas into Arkansas during the evening, before heading east of the Mississippi River overnight. While severe storms may be isolated, strong wind gusts, hail and perhaps even a tornado cannot be ruled out.
Thursday is set to bring the most widespread storms, with what may become a substantial severe weather outbreak. Storms are once again set to form near or just west of the Interstate 35 corridor before quickly moving eastward, bringing a wide array of hazards along with them. Destructive wind gusts, hail and tornadoes are all expected, and a few tornadoes may be on the stronger side as well. AccuWeather forecasters currently highlight the Ark-La-Tex region, as well as southeast Oklahoma, as the most likely location for this.
More isolated severe weather may continue into Friday, stretching from the Southeast states northward to the Ohio River, and northeastward into southern Virginia. Strong wind gusts will be the primary hazard from these storms.
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