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US Northeast Is About to Face a Gnarly Winter Storm

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A person crosses the street during a snowstorm on January 3, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Prepare for more scenes like this soon.
Photo: Sarah Silbiger (Getty Images)

A snowstorm currently picking up steam over the U.S. South is now set to impact the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The worst of it will thankfully miss areas hit hard earlier this week by a storm that shut down a huge swath of I-95 and trapped motorists for more than 24 hours.

But the storm is liable to make other parts of the I-95 corridor absolutely miserable, particularly a stretch from New York to Massachusetts. There, the storm could produce incredible snowfall rates even as it zips out of the region fairly quickly. All told, winter weather is coming, and it’s going to suck.

The weather map is littered with winter storm watches and warnings from Alabama to Maine, reflecting the widespread nature of what’s to come. Or, in the case of the South, what’s already happening.

The Winter Storm Is Already Wreaking Havoc

Heavy snow has already ramped up across the South. Nashville is expecting up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of snow through this afternoon, as is a large swath of the surrounding area in Tennessee and Kentucky. The snow that has fallen has created dangerous conditions. One of the challenges for road crews has been the rate at which snow has accumulated, up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) per hour. At daybreak, roadways across both states and Alabama were snow-covered and slick with ice, including normally heavily traveled highways.

“Major thoroughfares and side streets throughout Nashville are treacherous,” the city police department said in a Thursday morning update.

Frigid temperatures will rush in behind the storm, adding yet another hazard even after the snow passes. Overnight lows will dip into the single digits on Thursday, with wind chills approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-18 degrees Celsius). The city’s Office of Emergency Management announced it would do sweeps for people needing shelter on Thursday and Friday evening and hand out warm clothing.

The Northeast Is in for a Snowy Thursday and Friday

The storm will exit the South overnight and plow into the Mid-Atlantic and Appalachians. Parts of West Virginia could see up to a foot of snow, and winds gusting over the ridges of the Appalachians that will send wind chills plummeting to well below zero from Thursday to Friday night.

The Mid-Atlantic got rocked earlier this week with heavy snow; this storm will thankfully be a glancing blow to that region. But the Northeast is likely where things could get hairy. The same snowfall rates crushing Tennessee on Thursday will hit the Northeast on Friday, with an area from the Jersey Shore to Long Island expecting a blast of snow. (That includes New York City, of course, but we’re trying to be inclusive here and not play into New York Media People stereotypes.) The risk isn’t just the rate of snowfall, but the timing: The National Weather Service New York office warned in a tweet the heaviest snow is expected in the region right as the “morning commute gets underway.”

The I-95 corridor in Connecticut will also get hammered by the storm shortly thereafter, and the highest snowfall totals are likely to hit Boston and the South Shore. All this raises the risk of accidents, or, even worse, a repeat of what happened in Virginia earlier this week when a section of the highway shut down, trapping motorists. Luckily, though the storm will pack a potent punch, it’ll move through the area quickly enough that snowfall totals won’t be in the same range as the Mid-Atlantic storm earlier this week.

The Storm May Also Be a Bomb Cyclone to Boot

Because the world’s weather has no chill, the storm may end up bombing out after it emerges over the Atlantic. Forecast models show a classic-looking nor’easter spinning its way over the Atlantic and Gulf of Maine, with pressure dropping at least 24 millibars between Friday and Saturday. The lower the pressure, the fiercer the storm, generally. The drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours would meet the criteria for “bombing” out, right before the storm plows in Atlantic Canada.

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