The upcoming snowstorm is going to impact the mid-Atlantic region in perhaps an historical way, while here in New England, we’ll see nothing more than a glancing blow. But all of this doesn’t mean the impact will be zero.
Some uncertainties remain
Computer model forecasting has advanced light years over the past decade. In the final days of December and the first few of this month, the models were already sending strong signals of an East Coast storm this weekend. It’s rather amazing with all the complicated pieces of the atmosphere that the models can “see” something like this so far in advance.
What they still fail to do, however, is know the track of these storms more than about 3-5 days ahead of the event, and this creates a long period of maybe. The lacking ability for meteorologists to commit to many details is frustrating, but it’s the reality of where the science is right now.
Not a big storm
This morning, 48 to 60 hours before the northern fringe of the storm brushes southern New England, we have a lot more details to provide. It’s very important to remember the track can still wobble 100 miles north or south, and that would impact snow totals. So this forecast isn’t the final one.
The most likely areas to see a plowable storm with more than two inches of snow are south of the Massachusetts Turnpike. The snow will begin Saturday late morning to early afternoon and end Sunday in the early morning hours. The further north and west you live, the smaller the window will be.
Some coastal issues
Along the coastline, winds will be strongest, and on Cape Cod and the Islands, there could be power outages and some minor damage. Coastal flooding is also a concern, but I don’t expect anything beyond minor to moderate issues. Tides are high around 11 p.m. Saturday evening and again 12 hours later Sunday morning.
The maps below show expected stormy surges in southern New England and the surge across the New Jersey area. Depending on how strong this storm becomes, there could be areas with storm surges approaching Sandy levels. We’ll know this better Friday morning.
Historical snows possible
Snowfall across the Washington, D.C., area is worth a mention. There hasn’t been a storm exceeding 20 inches there since 1922, and there’s only one other one in the record books back in the late 1800s. That city seeing 20 or more inches in one storm would create issues similar to what New England saw last February.
What’s interesting about this storm is how it is occurring as the North Atlantic Oscillation is about to move into a positive phase. Without a long explanation of the NAO, it’s basically a measure of pressure systems that can buckle the jet stream. When it flips positive, we tend to turn milder and less stormy here. If you look back at some of the bigger East Coast storms, you’ll find many occur when this index flips, including the Blizzard of 1978.
The flip does mean cold air is going to be harder to come by toward the end of the month and early February. The 8- to 14-day outlook gives much of the area higher odds of being milder than average. In spite of this storm hitting about the same time as the big snows began last year, the similarities end there.