This week’s news has been ablaze with travel nightmares in the eastern United States. A string of headaches began Monday when hundreds of motorists were stranded on Interstate 95 in Virginia for upward of 20 hours amid a heavy snow. Freezing rain wrought havoc and triggered dozens of accidents and pileups around the New York Tri-State Area and New England on Wednesday. Now more commuting headaches may be in the cards for Friday.

Meteorologists are tracking a new snowstorm that could deposit a burst of moderate to heavy snow. While totals will be modest and a blockbuster snowstorm is unlikely, the rapidity with which the snow falls will pose a challenge in some areas.

The National Weather Service in New York warned of an imminent “significant disruption” to the Friday morning commute.

Winter weather advisories are in effect from the nation’s capital to New England, with a winter storm warning hoisted in Boston. Eastern Maine and the New Hampshire Seacoast are under a winter weather advisory. More than 100,000 customers remain without power in Virginia following the recent wintry slop according to PowerOutage.US.

The setup

Snow was falling early Thursday in Wichita, with Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis; and Nashville in line for snow as well. Music City has been included in a winter storm warning, with 3 to 5 inches on the way for Middle Tennessee. That same system will curve to the northeast, riding the spine of the Appalachians before sliding its shield of precipitation into the Mid-Atlantic tonight.

As the system intensifies, or deepens, offshore, its counterclockwise spin will entrain a filament of frigid Arctic air on the backside. That will tighten the west to east temperature gradient, or change of temperature with distance. The result will be a band of mid-level frontogenesis — essentially the formation of a cold front in the middle levels of the atmosphere.

Mild moisture-rich air wrapping around the low from the south will be forced upward northwest of this band, resulting in a half to one inch of snow per hour in a narrow strip that will quickly plaster the roadways and landscape with a heavy, wet snow. Rates topping an inch per hour are likely east of Interstate 95 over central and northern reaches of the Delmarva Peninsula and New Jersey.

Long Island, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts will probably see a few hours of heavy snow, with the Cape and Islands under the heaviest band for at least three or four hours while it pivots offshore on Friday afternoon.


The Interstate 68 corridor in the Panhandle of Maryland could see snow as early as 8 p.m. Thursday. The snow will reach the D.C. to Baltimore stretch shortly after midnight.

Philadelphia should see snow around 2 or 3 a.m. Friday, reaching New York City and overspreading the Long Island Expressway around 5 a.m. From there it expands into southern New England, the heaviest coinciding with the time of the morning commute.

The back edge of the snow will pull away from northern New Jersey shortly after sunrise, leaving chilly temperatures and a northwest breeze in its wake. Interstate 84 in Massachusetts and Connecticut should see its final flakes just after lunchtime, though the snow will linger until evening in the Boston to Providence corridor. Cape Cod won’t be done until after dark. A rumble of thunder or two is possible there as well.


A general 1 to 4 inches is likely in most of the storm’s path from Northern Virginia, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania through New Jersey, Long Island and southwestern New England. The storm will only last 4 to 6 hours at most in the majority of those areas, so any accumulations will be quick. Localized 5 inch amounts are possible, especially over the Delmarva Peninsula and Long Island.

A trio of “jackpot” zones could see 6 to 8 inches of snow. The first is in the Alleghenies of West Virginia, and the second is along and inside of Route 495 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including in Boston. Southeast Maine will also see up to a foot of snow, with the greatest accumulations farthest east toward the coast.

The storm will continue out to sea over the weekend, explosively intensifying southeast of Greenland with an air pressure rivaling that of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Saturday should be a more tranquil day in the Northeast with chilly temperatures and clear skies. By Sunday, another cold front arriving from the west could bring rain and a bit of wintry mix as cooling temperatures behind the front flip over precipitation.