Winter weather to hit mid-Atlantic fast, create trouble for commuters
Rain followed by a sharp change to snow -- it’s headed for a narrow stretch of the Tennessee Valley through the mid-Atlantic and it’s coming fast. AccuWeather meteorologists are warning that conditions could rapidly deteriorate ahead of the Thursday morning commute from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York City and southern New England with one of the quick-hitting rounds of wintry weather.
"We are expecting colder air to arrive right around the morning commute, quickly changing rain to snow," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said. "There are indications that it could snow quite heavily as this occurs, which raises the concern of travel conditions changing from wet to slushy to icy rapidly, especially in the northern and western suburbs along the I-95 corridor – catching unprepared motorists off guard."
"In some places, this may be like 'flipping a switch' with sudden changes from wet conditions to big snowflakes, reduced visibility and slippery roads," Porter added.
Porter said the AccuWeather forecast team was also concerned about impacts not only in parts of northern Virginia just outside the nation's capital, but areas farther south, including near the stretch of Interstate 95 where a snowstorm caused an enormous traffic backup that lasted for more than 24 hours earlier this month.
This cold and snowy pattern is setting up in the wake of a major snowstorm that unloaded snow from the Gulf Coast states through the Northeast and into Canada. Snow was still covering the ground in much of central and eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and parts of Virginia as of Tuesday afternoon, and more snow could accumulate in these areas before the old snow has a chance to melt away.
The next batch of snow will not be near the magnitude of this past weekend's far-reaching storm, but it could be a mess for those on the roads Thursday morning and at least a time-consuming nuisance for folks having to clean off cars or shovel sidewalks.
Winter weather advisories were in place for much of Kentucky and parts and southern Ohio on Thursday morning.
Unlike bigger storms, like nor'easters, in which snow falls around a central area of low pressure, the wintry precipitation into Thursday will fall along a cold front that is sweeping across the eastern U.S.
"A wave of moisture is forecast to ride along the leading edge of the cold push and cause rain to change to snow along this swath," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff.
The morning commute Thursday could be sloppy from eastern Kentucky to parts of the mid-Atlantic, including around Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.
"Accumulations are expected to generally range between 1 and 3 inches, with the higher accumulations and greatest potential to achieve the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches in the mountains of West Virginia," Duff said.
Washington, D.C., has already measured 12.1 inches of snow so far in January, the highest monthly snowfall total in the nation's capital since January of 2016 when 18.8 inches accumulated. The upcoming storm is unlikely to send the city's monthly total to this level, but it will add to the snowiest month in half a decade.
Little to no snow accumulation is expected farther south, but motorists could still face weather-related travel issues into Thursday.
"Roads are expected to initially be wet due to all rain falling at the front end of the storm, but as colder air moves in and temperatures drop, a changeover to snow can lead to slippery conditions on the roadways," Duff said.
This rapid freeze-up could cause icy spots to form on roads and sidewalks and even in places where no snow falls. This includes stretches of interstates 40, 65 and 75.
Snow is not predicted to fall as far south as it did during the weekend snowstorm.
The same cold front responsible for the snow will also usher in a fresh infusion of Arctic air, sending the temperature to drop to the lowest levels so far this winter for most areas.
Areas along the Gulf Coast, such as New Orleans, could bottom out at the freezing point early Thursday morning. However, this will feel mild compared to the interior Northeast and Upper Midwest where temperatures are expected to dip below zero F.
This cold air will set the stage for the next chance for wintry precipitation at the end of the week and into the first part of the weekend.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that there will be another snow and ice threat for portions of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic.
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