John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The National Weather Service has broken down predicted snowfalls for the coming blizzard.
Things are getting grim in the U.S. Northeast. While stocks of meat and liquor appear to be healthy, other snowy-time staples are being ravished by storm hoarders. "Some woman tried fighting me for the last piece of bread," reported one man Thursday afternoon. "It's snow. Not the hunger games...but I still got the bread."
How big of a wallop will this Nor’easter deliver? The authorities are taking it seriously: New York, already in a state of emergency, is closing parts of the Long Island Expressway at midnight. Residents of coastal Massachusetts are bracing for tidal flooding. The National Weather Service has posted blizzard warnings all along the upper East Coast, sounding the siren for heavy snow blowing in white-out conditions and dangerous wind chills into Friday morning. Hundreds of flights are canceled, and travel tonight "may become impossible at times," says the NWS.
The story of the storm's aftermath might well end up being those arctic winds, which in the next several days should make outdoor excursions a face-ripping misery. (Folks in New York and Boston carping about the subzero wind chills have got nothing on North Dakotans, who are expecting "life-threatening wind chills" of an incredible -60 degrees.) In terms of a snow-dump, though, in past years the region has seen worse. That's not to diminish the possible accumulations of powder: Areas around Boston could get 14 inches of snow, New York City up to 8 inches, Philadelphia 6 to 10 inches. It should be a significant-enough snowfall to gum up traffic and cramp thousands of spines during the morning's mass shoveling.
If you're wondering what your particular city could look like on Friday, the visualization team at NOAA released this map late Thursday afternoon showing predicted accumulations. The deepest drifts of as much as 16 inches, shown in dark blue, are expected to pile up in eastern Massachusetts and western New York. Most of the Northeast will likely be covered with snow by the time this thing moves on, though:
Earlier today, the agency's GOES-13 satellite spotted the dueling low-pressure systems responsible for creating this coastal ice-spewer. They're hinted at in the below image from Thursday morning – one moisture-laden system flowing up from the Gulf, intercepted by another hauling frigid air down from Canada. "In addition to heavy snowfall, north to northeast winds gusting to 35 to 50 mph could cause blizzard conditions for eastern Long Island and coastal Massachusetts," says NOAA. "Wind chill temperatures well below 0 F are forecast for much of the Central and Eastern U.S. on Friday. Wind chills below -30 F are expected for portions of northern New England."
Top image from the afternoon of January 2 courtesy of GOES Project Science