No, April’s not fooling. A powerful bomb cyclone will develop off the Carolina coast Tuesday, skirting the Eastern Seaboard with wind, heavy precipitation and even some late-season snow.
Snow in the South
Flakes were flying in Charlotte Tuesday morning, where the local National Weather Service office hoisted a statement cautioning “snow showers through 11 a.m.” The sudden visit from Old Man Winter comes as a surprise, just one day after temperatures in Charlotte hit 55 degrees. The city may flirt with 70 degrees Wednesday.
“Across greater Charlotte it is snowing moderately in spots,” said Chris Horne, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C. “Anytime there is snow in April in the Carolina-Piedmont region, it’s unusual.”
Horne said he expects accumulation to be limited to colder and grassy surfaces, with things wrapping up by midafternoon.
“It’s been a pretty quiet winter in terms of snowfall otherwise,” Horne said. “We had an event on December 9 and 10, but this is the first real snow since then.”
Heavy rain and gusty winds for eastern North Carolina through Tuesday evening
From there, the sprawling nor’easter will intensify as it rides up the Carolina coast. This storm is expected to achieve “bomb cyclone” status because of its rapid rate of intensification. Its pressure is forecast to drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
As the storm sprints north through Tuesday evening, its axis of rainfall will spread as far inland as near Interstate 95 through the Tarheel State. Rainfall totals of between a half-inch and an inch can be expected, with heavier amounts closer to the coast.
As the storm’s center is forecast to pass 50 miles east of Cape Hatteras, rainfall amounts could increase significantly on the barrier islands. Ocracoke and communities along North Carolina Highway 12 could pick up two to four inches. Isolated eight-inch amounts are possible just offshore.
A high wind warning is up for the barrier islands as well, where gusts to 60 mph are possible Tuesday evening and night.
Modest rains for the Delmarva Tuesday night
The storm will continue its northeasterly trek, sweeping well east of the Delmarva Peninsula and bringing occasional showers near the nation’s capital into Tuesday evening, with a bout of steadier rain along and east of the Chesapeake Bay. A quarter- to half-inch of rain is possible along the immediate Delaware and New Jersey beaches before the storm exits early Wednesday.
Rain, wind and some snow in the Northeast into Wednesday
In the Northeast, steady rain will arrive just after midnight, the heaviest confined to southeastern Massachusetts. A widespread half- to three-quarters of an inch will fall in the Boston to Providence corridor, but up to two inches might drench Cape Cod and the islands, where winds may gust over 40 mph. A stray thunderstorm is also possible.
The major northeast hubs, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, could suffer travel disruptions from Tuesday night until noon Wednesday. Low-level wind shear could affect flights taking off and landing, leading to delays on both ends.
The interesting setup will favor snow mixing in along the higher terrain of Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and Vermont. Spots above 1,000 feet will have the best risk of what the National Weather Service in Boston is describing as a quick “burst of snow.” An isolated shot at two inches is possible, though most will melt upon contact with the ground.
“This is a typical early spring event for us in southern New England,” said Bill Simpson, a spokesman at the Weather Service’s Boston office.
Boston will have primarily rain — but if enough cold air is entrained into the storm’s backside as it departs, a few snowflakes could taunt the city Wednesday morning.
April snow is not terribly rare in Boston. In fact, “it’s not unusual at all,” Simpson said. Boston has seen at least a trace of snowfall in all but 14 years since 1936, and in any given year, April has a 30-percent chance of hitting an inch or more of accumulation.
In 1997, 25.4 inches fell at Boston’s Logan International Airport during the infamous April Fools’ Day storm. A day before, temperatures had hovered in the 60s.
The big winter winners will be in Down East Maine, where a sloppy two to three inches could fall inland. A heavy band of snow could spend a few hours passing through eastern Aroostook County, which could bring isolated four-inch amounts.
The most severe storm conditions from this nor’easter will remain offshore. Hurricane-force wind warnings are posted for a 600-mile stretch of open ocean south of New England. Sustained northerly winds of 40 to 50 mph, gusting to 75 to 80 mph, will stir up the seas to nearly 30 feet.
Throughout New England, skies will clear by early afternoon Wednesday as the storm bolts for northeast Canada. Temperatures are forecast to rise into the upper 40s and lower 50s. Any snow that falls won’t be long for this world.
Isn’t that how all snow should be!?