Storm to unload 'most substantial wintry precipitation of the season' on parts of Northeast
Some parts of the region could receive their largest snowfall of the season so far.
This past weekend's record warmth may seem like a distant memory by this upcoming weekend as forecasters are monitoring the potential for a major storm to develop and deliver widespread wintry precipitation -- and perhaps the biggest snowstorm of the season for some metropolitan areas.
A pair of quick-hitting storms will first spread snow over the northern tier, replacing the mild air that has been gripping the region with colder air from Canada and laying the ground for a more significant storm with snow and ice in the Northeast this weekend.
While the first storm tracked out of northern New England early Wednesday morning, the second storm system will follow in its wake Wednesday night, dropping a swath of snow along a similar path.
The storm system will exit the region rather quickly, leaving cold air and a blustery northwest breeze entrenched across the Northeast Thursday. This cold air will set the stage for the next storm system to track in this weekend.
"The weekend storm may bring the most substantial wintry precipitation of the season so far for parts of the Northeast, including the I-95 corridor," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister said.
The greatest chance of a wintry mix for Virginia and snow for northern New Jersey and the New York City area is likely to come this weekend as a large storm moves in from the Midwest and taps into fresh cold air in the region.
The far-reaching storm will first hit highways and major airline hubs of the Midwest beginning Friday, and ripple-effect delays are possible across the Northeast prior to the storm's arrival in the region. Flight delays and cancellations are likely to ramp up Saturday as snow and a wintry mix spread eastward.
Motorists with travel plans along the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts turnpikes, as well as the New York Thruway and Southern Tier Expressway and interstates 64, 66, 68, 70, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93 and 95 should be prepared for wintry conditions and travel delays.
Snow is forecast to transition to ice and rain from northern Virginia to southeastern New York at the storm's peak, and up to a few inches of wintry mix is expected over areas farther north across the upper mid-Atlantic region. Meanwhile, a foot of snow or more could pile up in parts of the central Appalachians and New England.
"It's a tricky forecast at this stage with the timing and primary form of precipitation from the central Appalachians to the upper mid-Atlantic and the southern New England coasts," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said.
"Regardless of how warm it has been, we are at the point of the winter where cold air does not give up too easily and this cold wedge on the front side of the storm could spell wintry trouble for a number of locations," he added.
Cities such as Portland, Maine; Concord, New Hampshire; Rutland, Vermont; Albany, New York, have the potential to receive a heavy amount of snow from this storm. Only fast movement of the storm is likely to prevent it from becoming a blockbuster snowfall for northern areas, where an eclipse of the amounts from the storm during early December is not likely.
Considering that many areas in the Northeast were flirting with record highs just a few days earlier, the winter storm will be quite a shock. Boston reached the 70-degree mark and New York City climbed into the upper 60s during both days last weekend. Both cities and many others may have snow on the ground a week later.
Boston will be in the heavy precipitation zone, but the primary form of precipitation will depend on the traditional battle between mild ocean air to the southeast and cold air over interior New England. If the mild air wins out, then only a moderate snowfall would occur. But, if cold air hangs on, then Boston could be looking at a 6- to 12-inch snowfall.
Pedestrians make their way through blowing snow during a snowstorm, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
New York City is a close call between an all-out snowstorm and a snow to ice and rain then back to snow event. The all snow scenario would occur if the storm shifts its track farther south or the storm moves along so quickly that mild air does not have a chance to move northward.
Thus far this winter the biggest snowfall in New York City was 1.6 inches that fell in early December -- and the Big Apple has only received 35% of the normal snowfall this winter to date, which is way behind pace. The low snowfall is a result of fast-moving storms and a lack of sustained cold air. However, the weekend storm is destined to bring a change in the weather pattern with more long-lasting cold weather expected to set up in the eastern half of the nation during the latter part of January, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
A national analysis of snow depth across the United States since October 2019 shows limited snowfall along the Northeast's Interstate 95 corridor, despite occasional snowfall that has visited the interior Northeast. (National Weather Service/National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center)
The storm is likely to generate strong winds on its frontside in New England and on its back side throughout the region.
Blowing and drifting snow is likely from central and northern New England to upstate New York and perhaps farther south, where no change to ice or rain occurs.
A period of lake-effect snow and snow squalls is likely to follow the storm on Sunday across northern and western New York, western Pennsylvania, northeastern Ohio, western Maryland and northern and eastern West Virginia.
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