Next Tuesday’s East Coast storm could be a monster, but could miss

Yes, a major storm  will explode off the East Coast early next week. Sure, call it a ‘meteorological bomb’.  But the potentially behemoth storm may only materially impact eastern New England.

Since yesterday, models have shifted the track of the storm farther offshore and the consensus is trending towards more of a glancing blow scenario for the Mid-Atlantic – including the Washington, D.C. area.  Yes, a slight shift back towards  the coast is possible.  So the entire Mid-Atlantic and especially the Northeast – where the storm center is likely to come somewhat closer – need to stay on alert.

This is a storm that models suggest will rapidly intensify Tuesday into Wednesday, easily meeting the criteria for what meteorologists call “explosive development” or “bombogenesis” in which the storm’s central pressure plummets 24 mb in 24 hours.  These kinds of storms can produce severe impacts including very heavy rain and snow, wind gusts over 60 mph (especially in coastal areas), and coastal flooding.

But for now, the latest models suggest D.C. could well be spared the storm’s full force.

“For the Washington area, the operational models only forecast light precipitation Tuesday, as they develop the low too far east to spread the heavier precipitation into our area,” notes Wes Junker, Capital Weather Gang’s winter weather expert. ” The models also are still suggesting that the precipitation will fall during the day on Tuesday.  Light precipitation during daylight hours could be either rain or snow but would not be a big deal if today’s runs of the operational models are correct.”

But Junker also cautions it’s too soon to let our guard down: “The latest GEFS ensemble guidance offers a big caveat as a few members [simulations] still wrap up the low and spread heavy precipitation/snow into the area.  Therefore, despite the model trends, the storm still is worth monitoring over the next couple of days.”

(The same holds true for the European model ensemble guidance – some simulations have the storm hitting us more directly.)

Let’s take a quick look at the latest operational models.

* The European model is mostly a miss for the D.C. area (and even eastern New England is just grazed), with just a little rain and/or snow Tuesday.


Storm simulation from European model from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday (WeatherBell.com)

* The GFS model mostly misses D.C., but would have major impacts in New England, with snow, wind and coastal flooding.


Storm simulation of GFS model from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday (WeatherBell.com)

* The Canadian model is pretty similar to the GFS…just grazing D.C. but delivering a blow to eastern New England.


Simulation of storm from Canadian model from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday (Environment Canada)

As we’re right on the edge of this, stay tuned for updates over the weekend.

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 · March 21, 2014