Winter storm watches and advisories have been issued across the Northeast for what is shaping up to be the most significant winter storm in several years. Even with travel being limited amid the coronavirus pandemic, the storm, which has yet to fully take shape, could potentially become highly impactful and disruptive as the first round of coronavirus vaccines continue to be shipped around the country.
AccuWeather’s team of meteorologists is growing more confident that a blockbuster storm will unfold from Tuesday to Thursday and unload more than 2 feet of snow in spots, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of up to 30 inches expected. The sizable storm has a wide coverage area, with snow expected to fall from southern Illinois to Atlantic Canada and target major thoroughfares including Interstate 95.
The major midweek storm is set to unleash a foot of snow or more across parts of the central Appalachians, upper mid-Atlantic and southern New England, and part of the interior South is expected to get a thick glaze of ice as a drenching rain will pour down along the lower mid-Atlantic coast.
Forecasters are warning of major disruptions to travel and even travel shutdowns, as well as shipping delays, school closings and power outages from this blockbuster storm. Even where some students and people are working from home during the storm, power outages could throw a big wrench into that plan. Some areas may not only pick up the heaviest snowfall in several years, but this snow could also rival December snowfall records.
A broad swath of 12-18 inches of snow is projected to fall from northwestern Virginia and northeastern West Virginia to part of northern Maryland, south-central and eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, southeastern New York state and southern New England. Within this area, some places can pick up a 24-inch snowfall amount with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 30 inches.
Snowfall of this magnitude has the potential to shut down travel and lead to major delays of shipments at a time when a critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has begun.
The combination of heavy snow and gusty winds can create near-blizzard conditions just inland of the coast where all or mostly snow falls from the storm. Northern New Jersey and the lower Hudson Valley of New York state through southern New England is the most likely zone to experience near-blizzard and whiteout conditions. In this area, winds can frequently gust between 40 and 50 mph, dropping the visibility to near-zero at times at the height of the storm Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
There is the likelihood of power outages and even minor tidal flooding due to strong winds at the coast.
The storm is forecast to begin over parts of the Ohio Valley and the southern Appalachians during Tuesday night and spread across the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic during the day Wednesday. The storm’s impacts will reach southern New England on Wednesday evening.
Heavy snow is forecast to fall on Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; Scranton, Allentown, Reading, Harrisburg and State College, Pennsylvania; Paterson, New Jersey; Middletown, New York; Hagerstown, Maryland; and Martinsburg, West Virginia. A foot of snow could bury all of these locations with major disruptions to travel and daily activities.
But, even in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., anywhere from a couple of inches of slushy snow to several inches will pile up. Snow is expected to become mixed with and change to sleet and rain at the height of the storm — and the timing of the changeover will play a big role in totals. Snowfall accumulation will increase dramatically from southeast of I-95 to the metro areas and northern and western suburbs.