Experts are forecasting a potentially major snowstorm that could blanket the Northeast in snow over the weekend for the first time this season. “It now looks increasingly likely a significant winter storm will take shape starting Thursday and lasting through the weekend,” the Weather Channel says.
Most forecasters, though, aren’t ready to sound the major warning sirens for how much snow could potentially fall.
The National Weather Service, which issued a hazardous weather outlook for snowstorms in the Northeast this weekend, said only that the Northeast could get an “inch or greater of liquid equivalent,” meaning “many inches of snow.”
Weather Underground said at least 12.
The Weather Channel was calling for 5 to 8 inches of snow through the weekend in New York City but 22 inches of snow in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Some experts, though, went with the dire, hunker-down forecast. The so-called Euro Model, for example, called for more than 20 inches of snow in parts of Massachusetts.
The upshot: Nobody really knows just yet how much snow is coming.
“Uncertainties remain with the exact track of the storm and how long it will last,” the Weather Channel said. “It’s looking unlikely that a winter storm will fail to develop at all, but for many locations it’s far from certain what kind of impact this system will have.”
While it’s been bitter cold the last few days in the Northeast — as anyone who’s stepped outside knows all too well — warm temperatures have been the norm for most of the winter so far, and major snowfall has been notably absent.
That looks like it will change this weekend.
A low-pressure system is expected to develop over the Midwest and the South and combining with “upper-level energy” moving in from the Rockies, the Weather Channel said.
The system will gain strength, move Eastward and take aim at coastal cities, the Weather Channel predicts. The full moon this weekend could increase the impact of coastal flooding, the channel said.
“The potential exists for many, many inches of snow,” Accuweather’s Bernie Rayno said in a video forecast.
Here’s a timeline of what was being forecast Tuesday afternoon by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center:
Thursday, January 21: Snow and rain will fall in the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi valleys, moving towards the Atlantic.
Friday, January 22: Parts of the Ohio Valley, Central Appalachians and the Mid-Atlantic will see “heavy snow,” and the system Friday night will turn to the Northeast.
Saturday, January 23: “Heavy snow” and “high winds” will hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The snowfall would mark the beginning of the unofficial “snow season,” especially in major cities along the East Coast that have so far been deprived of significant winter weather.
In New York City, for example, snowfall was recorded Saturday in Central Park, the sixth-latest first snow on record for the area, according to the channel.
Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are also all below average in snowfall so far this year as of January 18, the channel said.