Just days after near-record warmth in some areas, a storm that brought accumulating snow to the southern Plains and parts of the Mississippi Valley on Monday will continue to ride a sudden change in the weather pattern, bringing accumulating snow and triggering travel disruptions from the upper part of the mid-Atlantic to southern New England, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.
This will be quite a reality check and shake-up for millions of people who were recently out enjoying the warmth from this past week and the start of the weekend, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde said.
"Winter will return with a vengeance as the storm moves along a push of colder air that will set the stage for more typical conditions for the middle and latter part of February," Rinde said.
The storm was already responsible for several inches of snow in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma this past weekend began to unload heavy snow on parts of the central Appalachians late Monday night, which then spread to areas from the mid-Atlatic to New England by Tuesday morning. AccuWeather meteorologists are projecting that a foot is likely to pile up from far northeastern Pennsylvania to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and much of Connecticut and Rhode Island just prior to Valentine's Day.
As of daybreak Tuesday, 2 and 3 inches of snow fell on State College, Pennsylvania, on the northwestern edge of the storm.
A wet and clinging snow fell on the northeastern United States on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Photo credit: Alex Sosnowski. Location: State College, Pennsylvania)
Farther to the east in the Keystone State, Jim Thorpe and Hazleton, picked up 13.4 inches from the storm. Wantage, New Jersey, located in the northwestern part of the state, has received about 10 inches from the storm so far, with 3-5 inches reported in the boroughs surrounding Manhattan. Snowfall in the Hartford, Connecticut, area ranged between 6 and 11 inches, with more in store.
The storm had cut the power to close to 150,000 utility customers in Pennsylvania alone as of the midday hours on Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.us.
The heaviest snow will pivot across southern New England into Tuesday afternoon as the storm tapers off in the zone from Philadelphia to New York City.
"Given the warmth preceding the storm, precipitation will began as rain in many areas and snow initially melted on road surfaces throughout the accumulation zone in the Midwest and Northeast," AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Joseph Bauer stated.
"How quickly the storm strengthens will determine how quickly cold air can be drawn into the storm, which will have significant implications on how much snow can accumulate," Bauer explained.
The injection of colder air into the storm, paired with the heavy rate of precipitation anticipated, will allow the storm to overcome the marginal surface temperatures.
Within the zone where 6-12 inches of snow will fall, there is an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 21 inches in the Northeast. The heaviest snow is likely to fall on the higher elevations from far northeastern Pennsylvania and southeastern New York through much of southern New England. Within this zone, there may be sporadic power outages due to the weight of the wet, clinging snow on tree limbs.
This band of heaviest snow is now expected to remain south of Boston with road conditions to range from just wet across the north and in the city to slushy and snow-covered on the hills to the south.
"Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour and locally greater can occur for a brief period on Tuesday, where the highest totals are expected," AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Sadvary said.
This heavy rate of snow has the potential to strand motorists and inhibit highway departments from keeping roads plowed and open. Road closures are possible at the height of the storm.
Even if the heaviest snow avoids the major Interstate 95 airport hubs of the mid-Atlantic, changing weather conditions and wintry problems with connections from regional flights are likely to trigger substantial delays and cancellations. Delays due to deicing operations will extend far beyond aircraft originating from New York City.
Pouring rain and fog, followed by heavy wet snow, will create poor visibility and difficult travel as road conditions transition from wet with ponding to slushy and snow packed. The wet and clinging nature of the snow will weigh down tree limbs and will trigger power outages.
"Given the trajectory of this storm and the warm to cold conditions leading up to Tuesday, snowfall can ramp up from a slushy coating to half a foot or more in a matter of a few miles along the Interstate 95 corridor from New York City, southwestward to Philadelphia and northeastward to Providence, Rhode Island," Sadvary said.
Tuesday morning's commute was a mess for many, including in Scranton and Allentown, Pennsylvania, New York City, and Hartford, Connecticut. Conditions will also deteriorate rapidly in the Boston area during Tuesday midday.
A more southern track has begun to push heavier accumulation of snow farther to the south. While still north of the center city of Philadelphia and the five boroughs that makeup New York City and much of Long Island, New York, totals in Manhattan are projected to be between 3 and 6 inches. However, the accumulation on roads and paved surfaces will vary greatly.
This more southern track is also brought a small amount of slushy snow to the hills to the north and west of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as around Wilmington, Delaware, central and southern New Jersey. Heavy snow will fall on Cape Cod, Massachusetts into the afternoon.
At this time, the heaviest snow is projected to stay to the north and west, with 1-3 in the offing for Philadelphia, 3 inches for Manhattan and little to no accumulation in the city core of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. However, heavy accumulating snow is expected not far from these cities in hilly areas. It may be snowing very hard right at the tail end of the storm. So, any delay in the ending of the snow can have huge consequences in terms of a rapid, last-minute accumulation.
As Rinde alluded to earlier, the storm will help to set up a colder and more seasonable weather pattern from the Midwest to the Northeast.
Millions will face the reality that it is still the middle of February come Valentine's Day as they dig out on Wednesday morning and recall their winter driving skills when heading to work or school or their favorite restaurant to celebrate the holiday with loved ones.
Opportunities for snow will be thrown as clipper storms from western Canada dive southeastward and the northern edge of southern-tracking storms move along later next week and beyond.
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