Major winter storm expected to hit Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, experts predict heavy snow and freezing rain

Slick road conditions and reduced visibility at times could make travel difficult across the region where winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are in effect


                            Major winter storm expected to hit Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, experts predict heavy snow and freezing rain
(Getty Images)

A significant winter storm is poised to bring heavy snow and areas of freezing rain to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, beginning on Wednesday, December 16, threatening up to two feet of snow in some areas. A widespread swath of heavy wet snow is likely from the central Appalachians and interior Mid-Atlantic into portions of the Northeast and southern New England.

Freezing rain and ice are also likely in western North Carolina and southwest Virginia. The National Weather Service has recommended against traveling. “A major winter storm will impact portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Wednesday into Thursday (December 17) as a nor’easter develops and lifts up the Mid-Atlantic Coast before turning out to sea. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour are likely for interior locations of the northern Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast,” predicts NWS.

It adds, “Confidence is high that this major winter storm will result in significant impacts, including travel disruptions and power outages across much of the Mid-Atlantic, southeastern New York and southern New England.” 

How bad will it get?

According to the Weather Prediction Center of the NWS, an area of low pressure, currently developing under an "energetic upper trough" over Texas, will take center stage as it is forecast to track across the East Coast and evolve into a significant nor’easter.  

The developing system is expected to produce moderate snowfall across portions of the central Plains. Slick road conditions and reduced visibility at times could make travel difficult across the region where winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are in effect.

“As this low-pressure system moves generally eastward, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and eventually from the Atlantic Ocean will interact with the upper trough and result in a swath of rain to quickly expand across the Deep South, the Southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday,” predict scientists.

Confidence is high that the storm will result in significant impacts, including travel disruptions and power outages across much of the Mid-Atlantic, southeastern New York and southern New England (Getty Images)

At the same time, a strong area of high pressure located over southern Quebec, Canada, will help filter colder air down along the Appalachian Mountains into the Mid-Atlantic. This will result in an expanding area of snow to overspread the Ohio Valley and into the central Appalachians on Wednesday, explain researchers. 

In between the snow in the north and the rain in the south, a wintry mix is projected to stretch across the southern Appalachians and the interior Mid-Atlantic. Freezing rain is the main concern across this region, as upwards of a quarter-inch of ice accretion is possible. This could lead to scattered tree damage and power outages.

“As the precipitation shield advances north throughout the day on Wednesday, heavy snow will overtake areas northwest of I-95 in the Mid-Atlantic,” warn forecasters. This implies that major cities, such as Washington DC and Philadelphia, will likely see a wintry mix and potentially plain rain for areas just to the southeast. Further northeast, heavy snow will also encroach upon northern New Jersey, southern New York State by Wednesday, December 16, evening. This includes the greater New York City metro region with strengthening winds from the northeast. 

“By Wednesday night, snow will also impact southern New England as the storm will likely near peak intensity while moving off the coast south of Long Island. The heaviest snowfall amounts are currently forecast across south-central Pennsylvania, where as much as two feet of snow is possible. This would likely lead to very dangerous travel conditions and isolated power outages. Many locations from eastern West Virginia to southeast Massachusetts are forecast to see a foot of snowfall accumulation,” say experts.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest will see their own unsettled weather through the next couple of days as two separate systems swing across the region. According to experts, the current wave of moisture associated with a frontal system will quickly penetrate well inland into the northern and central Rockies by Wednesday morning before a stronger storm brings the next wave of coastal rain and mountain snow by Wednesday, December 16, evening.

“Rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are likely during this time frame along the immediate coastline. Across the Cascade Mountains and higher elevations of Idaho and northwest Montana, 1 to 2 feet of snow could fall,” they add.

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