Devil in details for Thanksgiving week East Coast storm, primed to pester travelers

November 22, 2013

Computer models agree: yet another Arctic front will barrel towards the East Coast early-to-mid next week, a storm will form at its southern flank along the Gulf Coast, and then race northeastward with a swath of heavy rain and, in some areas, snow.

The exact track of the storm, its timing, and who sees rain, who sees snow, and who sees both are somewhat cloudy.

What we can say with high confidence:

* Heavy rain is likely along the Gulf Coast into the Southeast Tuesday

* The storm will be a fast mover

* Arctic air will reach the I-95 corridor by Wednesday night and it will be unseasonably cold Thanksgiving day.

 

What we can say with medium confidence:

* Strong thunderstorms are possible Tuesday afternoon and evening  near the Gulf Coast into Georgia.

* Rain, possibly heavy, is likely to spread up the I-95 corridor Tuesday night into Wednesday, through the D.C. area.


European model showing total precipitation through Wednesday afternoon (WeatherBell.com)

* Some snow is possible in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, western Maryland, and Pennsylvania late Tuesday night into Wednesday as cold air filters in.

* The storm should have its greatest impact along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast Tuesday into Tuesday night, and in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Tuesday night into Wednesday.

What we can’t say confidently

* How far inland heavy precipitation will extend north of the Mid-Atlantic; the storm may just graze coastal areas in the Northeast and spare inland areas.


National Weather Service graphic explaining uncertainty in storm track

* Exactly how long the storm effects linger; they may largely exit by Wednesday afternoon or linger towards Thursday morning, particularly in New England.

* Whether rain will change to snow before ending for the I-95 corridor from Richmond to Boston, including the Washington, D.C. area on Wednesday


GFS model simulates a narrow stripe of snow along the I-95 corridor that falls at the tail end of the storm (WeatherBell.com)

Bottom line

This storm has the potential to produce significant disruptions at the busiest travel time of the year, but there are also significant storm uncertainties. 

“Travelers leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday should pay close attention for forecasts over the coming days,” says CWG’s winter weather expert Wes Junker.

Stay tuned to forecasts as details come into better focus.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · November 22, 2013