The first day of meteorological winter, which began on Dec. 1, ushered in the first taste of the season to come with a major lake-effect snowstorm around the Great Lakes and in a few areas of Northeast, creating travel troubles and power outages. And forecasters are already eyeing the potential for yet another big storm in the eastern United States this weekend.
The weekend storm is expected to strengthen and tap into moisture and just enough cold air to bring drenching rain to many areas but also the potential for a heavy snowfall in some locations as well.
"We have the potential for another snowstorm this weekend," AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
An upper-level storm out in the south-central U.S. will bring "mischief and mayhem," Rayno explained. The key as to a whether a snowstorm will take shape versus more widespread rain will be the timing of that storm as it heads into the eastern U.S. If that storm runs out ahead of cold air expected to pour southward from Canada, then it could become a stronger storm and one that unleashes more widespread snow, he said.
Should the storm come to full fruition, it will be the second major storm to hit the eastern U.S. in less than a week. This time, the threat of heavy snow is likely to swing east of areas buried by recent snowfall in the Midwest and lower Great Lakes regions.
"We are confident there is a storm coming, but there is a question as to how strong it will become, and that strength has significant impact on the amount and extent of rain and snow in the Eastern states in general, but especially for the Northeast," Rayno said.
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The storm is expected to bring rain -- regardless of its intensity -- to the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, as well as the Southern cities of Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and Atlanta. Some snow is likely over the higher elevations of the Appalachians from northern Georgia to Maine -- no matter how strong the system becomes.
"How much snow falls over the mountains and how low snow levels dip across the interior mid-Atlantic and New England states depends on how strong the storm becomes and how quickly that strengthening process occurs," Rayno said.
In the scenario that the storm strengthens rapidly over the Northeast, "the rate of snowfall and total accumulation may be quite heavy over the mountains and a change to snow or a wintry mix can creep into interior valley locations and creep into the northern and western suburbs of the major I-95 cities," Rayno explained.
A more intense storm could not only bring hefty snowfall to the interior of the mid-Atlantic and New England, but it would also likely result in flooding rainfall along much of the Eastern Seaboard, as well as the potential for strong winds and severe thunderstorms in coastal areas from the Carolinas to New England.
"Should the storm remain weak or simply evolve into an average intensity system, snow may be restricted to elevations, say above 1,800 feet, and probably on the order of a couple of inches or less," Rayno said, adding that lesser amounts could still cause some tricky travel and delays for motorists.
The storm that will eye the Atlantic coast will continue to affect areas of the southern Plains into Thursday with areas of drenching rain and heavy snow. From later Thursday to Friday, the storm is expected to weaken over the Mississippi Valley, and rainfall is likely to diminish to spotty showers.
However, from Friday to Saturday, the storm is forecast to grab moisture and begin to regroup while it shifts farther to the east. This evolution should then cause rain to push through the Southeast states then expand northward along the Atlantic coast. A mix of rain and wet snow will spread over the Appalachians.
There is the potential for the storm to evolve into major nor'easter or even a bomb cyclone from Friday night to Saturday night. A bomb cyclone is an potent storm in which the central barometric pressure plummets by 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. If that type of significant strengthening takes place, the storm could bring high winds and extensive power outages throughout the Appalachians and Atlantic coast with widespread flooding rain along the coast and very heavy snowfall across the interior of the Northeast.
On Sunday, the storm is forecast to exit the Northeast, but pockets of rain and snow with blustery conditions are likely to linger in New England. Another round of lake-effect snowfall is possible off lakes Erie, Ontario and Huron. Where heavy snow falls into early Sunday, it may take several hours for road conditions to improve.
AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the anticipated weather conditions from the weekend storm in the coming days.
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