John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Forecasters say to expect up to 2 feet in places, especially around Washington, D.C.
The coming Mid-Atlantic blizzard is promising to be historic. It could affect more than 50 million people from Virginia to Boston, predicts the National Weather Service, with heavy snow dumps, significant coastal flooding, and ice-related headaches like traffic accidents and power outages.
So who’s going to get what, when? First, here’s a timeline of the storm’s probable track. It’s traveling east over the country and should meet up with another low-pressure system off the Atlantic coast on Friday, where it will combine energies and grind past North Carolina and Virginia. There’s a blizzard warning in effect for Washington, D.C. starting on Friday afternoon lasting through Sunday morning, with heavy snow, fierce winds, and maybe even sleet in the mix. New York could start seeing dense snowfall beginning Saturday morning.
Now everyone’s favorite part—snow predictions. Models have so far been consistent showing the storm could drop up to 2 feet of powder (with more in high altitudes) in a bull’s-eye centered on D.C. and Virginia, with up to a foot possible in contiguous states. As always, check the latest forecast for your city for updates on the storm’s progression.
This experimental NWS accumulation map shows the “most likely” scenario of 24 inches for D.C. (It predicts a minimum of 9 inches in the city and a maximum of 29 inches.)
The same experimental tool gives 9 inches for New York, with a minimum of zero and maximum of 15. Sleet and snow will likely be followed by strong winds possibly up to 58 mph, according to the weather service.
Meanwhile, several southern states are facing lighter snow tossed with sleet and maybe freezing rain, the perfect dismal cocktail for slippery roads and traffic mayhem. Some parts of Kentucky and North Carolina could get glazed with a whopping half-inch of ice, according to the NWS Weather Prediction Center.
And as to the flood situation, Michael Lowry at the Weather Channel says it could get bad in these locations during the weekend’s high tides.