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Snow Returns: Impending Snowstorm May End Two-Year Drought in the Northeast

As the weekend approaches, the Northeast and parts of the Mid-Atlantic are on alert for a substantial snowstorm that is poised to disrupt business and transportation across several states. The approaching system could end a nearly two-year snowless streak for cities like New York and Philadelphia, which have both broken previous records dating back decades.

This system will bring a smorgasbord of wintry precipitation, including heavy snow, rain, and freezing rain, along with gusty winds and potential coastal flooding.

The weather: what you can expect

Computer model guidance is slowly converging on a clearer picture of potential impacts this weekend, including where the rain/snow line will setup and total accumulations across portions of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

We'll break down potential impacts by region..

Expected Snowfall Totals by Sunday Night:

Snowstorm map
Snowfall Forecast from the WeatherOptics Meteorology Team

West Virginia, northern Virginia, western Maryland:

A low pressure originating from the Gulf of Mexico will gain strength as it makes its way north-east into parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Light to moderate precipitation will move into the higher elevations of West Virginia and western/northern Virginia Saturday morning before 12 PM. This will likely begin as all snow or a wintry mix, including across major cities such as Washington DC and Baltimore. Snow could be heavy for a period of time, especially NW of the I-95 corridor.

Warm air will surge north rather quickly in the early afternoon hours, changing snow to a wintry mix and a wintry mix to rain for much of the region. Higher elevations will remain frozen for longer, especially across suburbs of Washington DC and Baltimore, far NW VA, and western MD. Some of these places may have predominately frozen precipitation for the entire event.

There will be significant icing along I-40 in the NC foothills and across parts of western VA along I-81 and I-77. Ice accretion is expected to be between 0.1" and 0.3" which will make for dangerous travel.

There is still somewhat substantial disagreement on where the rain/snow/wintry mix line will set up, but current indications suggest along and just NW of the I-95 corridor. This will limit accumulations for the big cities, but small shifts in track could change that.

Forecasted precipitation type
GFS (American Model) Forecast

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York:

Light snow will begin across most of southern PA Saturday afternoon, and will likely become moderate to heavy at times starting in the early evening hours from SW to NE. Central and northern NJ into parts of western NY will begin to see light snow in the early evening hours, with moderate to heavy snow more likely after 8 PM ET.

Southeastern PA, southern NJ, NYC metro, and Long Island may start off as snow or a wintry mix, but are likely to transition over to rain within a few hours. A brief burst of heavy snow with some accumulation will be possible. There's still some disagreement among models on the timing and extent of the changeover, but it would appear accumulations will be limited for places like Philadelphia, Trenton, and NYC. Small shifts could lead to fairly drastic changes in snowfall amounts.

Coastal areas across Long Island will also experience gusty winds, possibly up to 45 mph during the peak of the storm.

The heaviest snowfall from this system is likely to setup across central and northeastern PA through central and southern NY and into parts of New England. The snow will be fast moving but come down heavily during the overnight hours and early morning hours of Sunday. Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches/hour will be possible with near zero visibility at times. This region is most likely to see 6+ inches of snowfall by Sunday morning when precipitation quickly comes to an end.

Snowfall probabilities
ECMWF (European Model) Probability of Snowfall >3"

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

Light snow will begin across CT Saturday night after 7 or 8 PM ET, and quickly become moderate to heavy. The southern coastline of CT will likely begin as snow and transition over to a wintry mix after a few hours. There may be a sharp gradient of accumulation dependent on changeover time and how heavily precipitation falls while p-type remains snow.

Coastal New England will also experience gusty winds, possibly up to 45 mph during the peak of the storm.

North of I-95 and into interior CT and MA, heavy snowfall is expected with a much lower chance at a changeover to a wintry mix or rain. Places like Hartford, Springfield, and Worcester will be among places likely to see highest snowfall totals of 6+ inches.

Southern VT, NH, and ME will also see moderate to potentially heavy snow at times, although the northern extent of the precipitation remains more uncertain.

Rhode Island, Boston, and the Cape remain with a tricky forecast. There's a decent chance that what begins as moderate to heavy snow transitions over to rain during the peak of the event. Guidance also suggests that precipitation may change back over to snow as the storm exits the coastline Sunday afternoon. This will have an impact on snowfall totals.

The storm should exit the region entirely by Sunday night.

GEFS low locations
GFS (American Model) Ensembles Showing Wide Range of Possibilities

Snowstorm Impacts: what you should prepare for

Impact will be rather widespread, with major disruptions forecasted along key interstate corridors such as I-80, I-70, I-76, and I-81, affecting areas in southern New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and northern Virginia.

Parts of I-86, I-90, I-84 and I-93 are also likely to be heavily impacted, especially Saturday night and into Sunday.

Road risk score for northeast
WeatherOptics Road Conditions Index Saturday Afternoon to Sunday Morning

The WeatherOptics Road Risk Index is showing widespread scores of 7+, indicating travel along these routes could become treacherous, and in some instances, may be impossible. There's a higher than normal risk of accidents and road closures, and drivers should be prepared for severe conditions and consider postponing non-essential travel.

Some impacts can also be expected along the I-95 corridor, although snowfall should be limited. Still, the initial burst of snow and wintry mix could make for dangerous travel conditions for a period of time.

Business operations will be most heavily affected across interior PA, southern/central NY, northern CT, MA, and parts of southern VT, NH, and ME. The WeatherOptics Business Disruption Index is showing widespread scores of 5+, indicating substantial changes in consumer demand and store operating hours will be possible.

Warehouses, factories, and distribution centers are also likely to be impacted across the same region. Freight moving in and out of major hubs like New York City, Pittsburgh, Washington DC and Boston should expect delays. The WeatherOptics RightRoute API is showing shipments could be delayed by >50% on some key lanes.

Impacted routes by upcoming snowstorm
WeatherOptics RightRoute Software Showing Significant Delays

Action steps: how you can prevent disruptions

Shippers, carriers, retailers, and travelers operating this weekend across the areas mentioned in this article should take steps now to mitigate impacts.

This could include changing travel plans, moving delivery windows, warning customers proactively about potential shipment delays to avoid costly OTIF charges, or refining store operating hours.

You can streamline and automate this process with insights and information that focuses on business impact by leveraging the WeatherOptics Risk Scores and RightRoute software both through our APIs and Insight Portal.

You can learn more here.


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