A snowstorm will sweep from the Midwest to the Northeast spanning this weekend into Groundhog Day and will cause major travel delays and disruptions to daily activities.
Close to 100 million people live within the swath forecast to be hit with accumulating snow or enough wintry mix to make for slippery roads from Saturday evening into Monday.
From 6-12 inches of snow is forecast to fall along a 1,200-mile west to east swath from Iowa to Massachusetts. Within this swath, some areas can receive close to a foot and a half of snow.
Two components of the storm will merge together along a boundary of cold air to the north and warm air to the south, over the Central states this weekend.
According to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek, “The sooner and more aggressively this happens, the stronger the storm will be and the farther north it will track.”
The strengthening storm will carry moisture in from the Pacific Ocean and grab more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean along the way. The result will be a swath of heavy snow from part of the middle Mississippi Valley, to the northern part of the Ohio Valley states, the upper mid-Atlantic and southern New England.
The storm will begin as rain or a wintry mix in Iowa, Nebraska and the northern parts of Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, before changing to snow.
While the expectation of this warm/cold boundary has shifted northward over the past couple of days, Accuweather.com meteorologists have reached a consensus as to where the heaviest snow is likely to fall.
Motorists from the Midwest to the Northeast should expect slippery and dangerous conditions, while there is a possibility of a large number of flight delays and cancellations. Some of the crews and aircraft displaced during the storm may have a ripple effect across the country by early next week.
Storm to Hit Midwest Saturday Night Into Sunday
Enough snow to shovel and plow will fall in a zone of Central states’ cities from Omaha, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Fort Wayne, Indiana. In this area from near the Mississippi River to the western slopes of the central Appalachians, a general 6 inches of snow is forecast with locally higher amounts, even if sleet mixes in at some locations.
In the Midwest, roads along the Interstate-80/90 corridor will become snow-covered as the storm moves eastward spanning Saturday night and Sunday.
During the latter part of the storm, there will be enough wind to cause some blowing and drifting of the snow that is on the ground.
Farther south along much of the I-70 corridor, a wintry mix is in store. Areas from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, and Morgantown, West Virginia, will receive more than enough wintry mix to make for slippery roads.
A change to snow at the end of the storm is what will make for the worst wintry travel around Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Storm to Reach Northeast Late Sunday into Monday
Farther east, cities from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Binghamton, New York, to Hartford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston will receive significant snow Sunday night into Monday. Similar to areas farther west in the Midwest, enough snow to shovel and plow are forecast.
Some sleet and rain will mix in at coastal areas at the height of the storm and are likely to prevent an unmanageable snowfall in New York City. However, plunging temperatures in the wake of the storm will cause a freezeup of slush and standing water.
Travel throughout the I-80 corridor in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will become difficult, due to heavy snow and areas of sleet. Motorists should expect slippery and dangerous travel to develop along part of I-81, the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts turnpikes, New York’s Southern Tier Expressway and Thruway, as well as I-84 in the Northeast.
“The heaviest snowfall with this will be between I-80 to the southern tier of New York, over to northern New Jersey, the lower Hudson Valley, and southernmost New England,” Dombek said.
“A half a foot of snow is possible in this swath with the chance of local amounts into the double digits.”
From near New York City to southern New England, there are still huge piles of snow left, in the wake of the snowfall from Monday’s storm. Crews may want to make room for the new snowfall coming. Surging temperatures in New York City and in Long Island could cause urban flooding where storm drains are blocked with piles of snow.
Enough wind can occur on Monday to cause some blowing and drifting of the snow on the ground from parts of the central Appalachians to New England. Winds may get strong enough to cause rough seas and above-normal tides that can lead to coastal flooding in New England.
In parts of Long Island and southern New England, snow load on roofs may become an issue. This is mainly a concern where snow drifted on flat roofs during the Blizzard of 2015, creating an uneven depth and weight.
“From northern upstate New York state to northern New England, it will be plenty cold for snow, but the moisture will probably be lacking for a really big snowstorm,” Dombek said.
If the storm was to turn more to the northeast soon after reaching the Atlantic Ocean, heavy snow could spread farther north in upstate New York and northern New England on Monday.
“Near and south of Mason-Dixon Line, some other form of precipitation [sleet and/or rain] is likely to greatly hold down snow accumulations,” Dombek said.
Areas from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore to Philadelphia, Dover, Delaware, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, will receive enough warm air to bring a change to rain. However, enough snow or wintry mix will fall in these areas, before rain takes over to create slippery roads and bring flight delays.
Rain, Spotty Storms to Sweep Across South
In the South, periods of rain will develop and sweep eastward Sunday into Monday. A few thunderstorms may develop near the Gulf coast and along the southern Atlantic Seaboard.
Isolated pockets of heavy rain can lead to brief urban flooding problems and travel delays in the South.
As colder air sweeps in near the storm’s conclusion, rain could end as a period of snow as far south as portions of western and middle Tennessee to the southern Appalachians Sunday night into Monday.
Since the storm will take a track through the mid-Atlantic states, no snow of significance is forecast across southern Virginia to areas in North Carolina away from the Appalachians.
The air will turn bitterly cold in the wake of the storm from the Midwest to the Northeast. Actual temperatures will dip to the single digits to near zero in the swath from Philadelphia to Boston by Tuesday morning. AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will dip well below zero from Washington, D.C., to Boston, northwestward to the lower Great Lakes.