Biggest snowstorm in years set to hammer Northeast
Winter storm watches and advisories have been issued across the Northeast for what is shaping up to be the most significant winter storm in several years. Even with travel being limited amid the coronavirus pandemic, the storm, which has still yet to fully take shape, could potentially become highly impactful and disruptive as the first round of coronavirus vaccines continue to be shipped around the country.
AccuWeather’s team of meteorologists is growing more confident that a blockbuster storm will unfold from Tuesday to Thursday, and unload more than 2 feet of snow in spots, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of up to 30 inches expected. The sizable storm will have a wide coverage area, with snow expected to fall from southern Illinois to Atlantic Canada and cover major thoroughfares including Interstate 95.
As the energy from a powerful storm system that slammed the West Coast over the weekend slides east over the upcoming week, it will become responsible for the next major winter storm for the United States. The storm Is poised to strike much of the East Coast, bringing a large swath of drenching rain, deep snow and perhaps even a thick glaze of ice for some.
A quick-hitting storm system racing off of the East Coast Monday will help to set the stage initially, depositing cold air across much of the East for the early part of the week.
"As upper-level energy moves from the Rockies into the East Monday and Tuesday, an area of low pressure will begin to take shape across the southern Plains and Southeast," explained AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tyler Roys.
"This storm system will then turn northeastward and track somewhere near the East Coast, tapping into the cold air that will be available to create a winter wonderland for some."
Forecasters say confidence in the exact track of the storm system is still low, and that this will have a large impact on who exactly sees the worst conditions.
"As the storm system forms in the South, a chilly rain will break out along the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley later Tuesday and Tuesday night," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Niki LoBiondo.
"Once it starts moving north, it will meet colder air, and more wintry precipitation will begin to take over with the potential for significant ice and snow across a large portion of the East."
The potential for ice will come first across the southern and central Appalachians, as well as interior portions of the Carolinas and Virginia late Tuesday night into Wednesday.
"East winds around high pressure to the north will bank up a shallow layer of cold air in and against the eastern slopes of the Appalachians," LoBiondo explained. "This will create a favorable setup for the formation of sleet and freezing rain as the storm system moves north."
Significant ice accumulations are possible where conditions become the most favorable for prolonged ice, which can lead to downed trees and power lines as they will be weighed down by ice. Even in areas that only see minor ice accumulations, travel could become treacherous for a time. Even a thin layer of ice on roads can cause big problems. Interstates 40, 77 and 81 could all see a time of treacherous travel.
As the storm shifts farther north, cold air will be more entrenched, and ice will become snow.
"There is the potential for a large swath for at least some accumulating snow all the way from the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes, through the mid-Atlantic and New England," Roys said.
As the storm intensifies somewhere along the mid-Atlantic or Northeast coast later Wednesday into Thursday, a swath of particularly heavy snow is likely to develop. Strong winds will also develop and could accompany heavy snow creating localized blizzard conditions.
"The swath of heaviest snow and highest snowfall accumulation is dependent on the exact track of the storm, and small changes in where the storm tracks can lead to big changes in the amounts of snowfall for a given location," Roys explained.
"However, with a track near the mid-Atlantic and New England Coast looking more likely, the probability of the heaviest snow targeting parts of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England is also increasing."
Even parts of the heavily populated I-95 corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston could see heavy snow Wednesday into Thursday, clogging roads and causing difficult travel.
Strong winds at the coast can also lead to rough surf and coastal flooding, as well as localized power outages. Mainly rain will fall farther south and east in the mid-Atlantic.
"While we continue to monitor trends, residents in the East need to pay close attention to the forecast over the next few days," Roys warned. "This storm has the potential to be highly disruptive for a large number of people."
This storm could surpass the entirety of last winter’s snowfall totals for major cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City in one fell swoop. Both Philadelphia and the nation’s capital recorded less than an inch of snow last winter with just 0.3 of an inch and 0.6 of an inch of snow respectively. A normal seasonal snowfall in Washington, D.C., is about 18 inches, while Philadelphia's average is around 22.4 inches.
In New York City, just 4.8 inches of snow was measured at Central Park through the entirety of last winter, the lowest seasonal total since 3.5 inches was measured during the winter of 2001-2002. New York City typically gets about 25.8 inches a winter at its Central Park observation site.
Folks who have been dreaming of a white Christmas could end up getting their wish this holiday season, even though the storm is arriving just about a week before the holiday.
"Where the heaviest snow falls, it could leave a thick-enough blanket of snow to last all the way until Christmas," Roys said.
"Overall a chillier pattern looks to last until Christmas, so if any locales get around a foot or more of snow, it could be enough to last until Christmas. It could also turn a bit more active again Christmas week, so some spots could even add a little more snow before the holiday."
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories