Tuesday , June 15 2021

As the Midwest digs out, the East Coast braces for a powerful nor’easter

It’s been almost two years since Washington, DC has had a snowfall greater than 1 inch, but that could change drastically by later Sunday. The city is under a winter storm warning through Sunday evening, with 4-8 inches of snow possible. Additional snow will likely fall on Monday.

“Forecasting snowfall amounts in the nation’s capital is rarely easy, but confidence is increasing that the DC area will see a significant snowfall developing on Sunday and lasting into Monday,” says CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.

A big winter storm is in the works that could bring the nation’s capital as much as 10 inches of snow. This would end the 709-day streak that Washington, DC has gone without a snowfall greater than 1 inch.

“The only other time this has happened was a 788-day streak that ended in 2013,” says CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

The storm’s path

On Sunday morning, more than 100 million people were under winter weather alerts from the southern Great Lakes to New England. The storm’s impacts have already been felt as heavy snow fell across northern Illinois and central Indiana, causing travel headaches.

The storm will strengthen into a powerful nor’easter by Monday morning as it reaches the coast. This will be a long duration event for many along the eastern seaboard as the system will be slow to exit. Snow will fall in periodic bursts over the next three days from DC, Philadelphia, New York City to Boston, ending gradually from the southwest to the northeast.

Major impacts expected

Strong winds will accompany the heavy snow, reducing visibility and creating power outages. Travel disruptions will be extensive from the ground to the air as the storm coats roads and runways with fresh snow. Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour were reported near Chicago’s suburbs late Saturday evening, where up to 9 inches of snow is forecast by Sunday night. As the storm moves east, it will reorganize and intensify. The highest snow accumulations will occur from New Jersey to southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland, where up to a foot of snow is possible.

Ice and sleet accumulation is also a concern for portions of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. The highest totals will likely fall north of Charlotte and Raleigh where up to 1/2 inch of ice is possible.

The warm sector of this storm is creating numerous showers and embedded thunderstorms across the central and southeastern US today. Expect a rainy Sunday in Atlanta before showers exit the region by the start of the work week.

Areas farther west such as St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois, will see more of a rain/snow mix through Sunday evening. Exactly how much snow will stick to the ground remains uncertain.

One week after areas of Iowa were pummeled by snow, the Hawkeye State could see a few additional inches by Sunday night.

A developing nor’easter

“Snow will move in from southwest to northeast late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, with snow likely widespread by mid-late morning Sunday,” said the National Weather Service office in Baltimore and Washington, DC.

By Sunday afternoon into Monday, there is the potential of a changeover to sleet and freezing rain.

With any nor’easter, there is uncertainty in the forecast snow totals because so much depends on the exact track of the low pressure.

“There seems to be a consensus amongst forecast models that moderate to heavy snow will occur from portions of Virginia to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but there continues to be some uncertainty on the exact track of the low pressure Monday into Tuesday,” Ward said. “This will have a significant impact on how much snow falls from New York City into New England. A storm system that tracks parallel to the coast would provide greater snowfall, while a more eastward track out to sea would limit snow totals in New England.”

That could make the difference in places like Boston and New York City between seeing 4 inches of snow or a foot.

Philadelphia’s NWS office is forecasting more than 6 inches of snow with gusts of wind as high as 45 mph “creating significant blowing and drifting snow.”

In its forecast discussion, the office also noted that the storm is forecast to be an abnormally long event, with 36 or more hours of snow and wintry precipitation, and that the highest snow totals and rates will likely not be realized until late Monday.

The NWS office in Boston had already hinted Friday at the storm and its possible effects.

“There is the potential for a significant winter storm later Mon into Tue,” the Boston office said on Twitter. “If this storm materializes significant snow accumulations would be possible for some along with a period of strong winds & coastal flooding along the eastern MA coast.”

The storm will then push off the coast by Wednesday.

CNN’s Jennifer Gray contributed to this report.

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