Nor’easter to unleash heavy snow from DC to Boston as winter strikes back
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 12, 2017, 9:31:15 AM EDT
A major nor’easter threatens to shut down travel due to heavy snow and strong winds from Washington, D.C., to New York City and Boston early this week.
The snowstorm is first set to bring snow and travel problems in the Midwest into Monday.
A storm will rapidly strengthen and track within a couple of hundred miles of the East coast of the U.S. spanning Monday night to Tuesday night. For many areas in the Northeast, this will likely be the biggest and most impactful storm of the winter.
At this time, it appears that areas from northwestern Virginia to northern Maryland, central and eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, central and southeastern New York state and a large part of New England stand an excellent chance of receiving 6 inches or more of snow from the storm.
A widespread zone of a foot or more of snow is expected from the northern suburbs of Philadelphia to Portland and Bangor, Maine.
This amount of snow over such a broad, heavily populated area could bring travel to a standstill as snow clogs streets and highways and heavy snow and wind trigger airline delays and flight cancellations. Some flights have already been canceled in advance of the storm.
For thousands of miles of roads in the region, this will be an unusually cold storm for the middle of March. Much of the snow that falls will accumulate on the roads.
Exactly where the storm tracks will determine the western extent of enough snow to shovel and plow, as well as where rain will fall along the coast and cut down on snowfall accumulation.
All rain or a mixture of rain and snow is likely to fall on southeastern Virginia, southeastern Maryland, southern Delaware, southern New Jersey and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Should the storm track farther to the east, then heavy snow could fall in these areas.
Should the storm track farther west, then more rain could fall farther inland, especially to the Interstate-95 corridor. In this case, the zone for a foot or more of snow would shift westward to the I-81 and northern I-91 corridors.
At this time, the major cities along I-95 to the northern and western suburbs and the central Appalachians are all at risk for a major snowstorm.
Increasing wind to cause coastal flooding, power outages and intensify the cold
As the storm intensifies, winds will ramp up along the coast and expand inland.
Wind gusts can frequently top 40 mph at the height of the storm, which cannot only create blizzard conditions, but may break tree limbs and threaten sporadic power outages.
For those that lose power, cold air more typical of the middle of January will settle in behind the storm. For those that must walk to their destination, full midwinter attire will be needed in the days following the storm.
AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will hover in the teens and single digits and may dip below zero F at times.
Blowing and drifting snow can become a significant problem, not only during the middle of the storm on Tuesday, but perhaps for a couple of days in the storm’s wake.
During much of the storm, northeasterly winds will pull ocean water toward the coast and create rough surf from Virginia to Maine.
This effect will cause tides to run 1-2 feet above normal and can result in coastal flooding at times of high tide.
Beach erosion will occur as well.
Since the storm is likely to maintain its forward speed, the period of coastal flooding and beach erosion will be relatively brief.
Strong onshore winds, coastal flooding and beach erosion will diminish from south to north as the storm moves along and winds blow offshore Tuesday night and Wednesday. Only if the storm stalls would a more prolonged period of beach erosion and coastal flooding occur.
In addition to blowing and drifting snow in the Northeast in the wake of the storm, freezing air will penetrate deep into the South and lake-effect snow can bring bands to the lee of the Great Lakes during the middle and latter part of the week.