Ingredients are in place for a major winter storm this week for the East Coast. The storm promises to first wallop interior portions of the Southeast Tuesday into Wednesday with ice and snow before hammering the Mid-Atlantic Wednesday into Thursday. Southern New England could get into the act Thursday and Thursday night.
This is a classic significant winter storm setup, with low pressure developing in the Gulf of Mexico and then barreling northeastward up the East Coast, gaining strength along the way. Once it reaches the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, it is likely to be evolving into a full-fledged Nor’easter.
“A high societal impact winter storm is appearing more and more likely for the first part of the work week across the southern tier of the country and then proceeding potentially up the East Coast by midweek,” writes the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center.
Winter storm watches have already been hoisted for more than 15 million people from northern Georgia into the Carolinas, including Atlanta and Charlotte. Crippling ice and/or snow accumulations are major concerns in this zone, especially Tuesday night into Wednesday.
“The ice accumulations remain possibly paralyzing if not historical with additional .50 to .75 inch axis from Athens to Columbia to Raleigh and 8 to 10 inches or snow from Asheville/Greenville-Spartanburg to Roanoke/Lynchburg/Charlottesville,” the Weather Prediction Center says.
The kind of ice accumulations being discussed would lead to devastating tree damage and widespread power outages.
Farther north into the Mid-Atlantic, the exact track of the storm will determine specific impacts, but significant snow and/or ice is possible from Richmond through Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and into Philadelphia – especially Wednesday night into Thursday.
For this region, there is an outside chance a further inland track would change frozen precipitation to rain, or a more offshore track would reduce precipitation totals. But heavy snowfall totals (some areas could achieve double digit amounts) or serious amounts of sleet/freezing rain are a possibility here.
(Programming note: a detailed look at storm scenarios for the D.C. area by Capital Weather Gang winter weather expert Wes Junker will be published early Monday afternoon)
Thursday and Thursday night, the storm shifts up the coast towards New York and Boston in all likelihood, with snow or rain and snow in coastal areas, along with strong winds as the storm cranks up. Specific amounts and the exact location of the rain/snow line are still uncertain.
The storm may have less cold air to work with by the time it reaches New England as an area of high pressure supplying cold air to the Mid-Atlantic and South shifts off the coast.