A potentially record-breaking ‘nor’easter’ snow storm is expected to move towards Washington D.C. and Mid-Atlantic States in the next few days. This is the first big storm of the winter and will be accompanied by very strong and chilling winds, more especially on the northern flank of the storm, leading to blizzard conditions and significant associated impacts. Road and air travel in and out of the region will be affected, along with likely disruption to power supplies.
Currently the weather system is developing over Northern Alabama and Tennessee. The storm is expected to intensify on Friday night and during Saturday as it moves towards the Atlantic coastline of North Carolina, before moving away from the eastern seaboard overnight into Sunday.
Snow and ice have already affected parts of the northern Mississippi Valley. This is forecast to extend northeastwards on Friday, initially towards Ohio, then onwards to the Mid Atlantic States and southern New England overnight and during Saturday.
Very warm and humid air originating from the Gulf of Mexico will be drawn north with the storm and interact with the very cold air across the central northern states and southeastern Canada. On the boundary between the warm and cold air is where the most significant snowfall is likely.Very strong winds are also expected with gusts of 50 to 60mph possible on the northern flank of the storm, affecting areas such as Manhattan, Washington and Baltimore.
A ‘State of Emergency’ has been declared across the Mid-Atlantic States region in readiness for the 30 to 90cm of snow expected. The heaviest snowfall is predicted just to the west of Washington DC and blizzard warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service.
There is the potential for greater snow amounts if the track and the intensity of the storm deviates from its current forecast. Also the strong wind may lead some drifting and enhance the impact of the snow.
Trans-Atlantic flights in and out of the snow and blizzard hit airports will be affected for a time. Schools across the region closed on Friday and Washington DC’s transport system (the 2nd busiest in the US) is expected to be closed throughout the weekend. You can see how the storm develops and impacts on the US here.
The record snowfall for Washington is 28in (71cm) that fell during a two-day period in January 1922.
Further north, Boston, which was significantly affected by numerous snowstorms last year, is unlikely to see major snow during this event, with only 5 to 10cm predicted.
Could this weather affect us here in the UK?
It is sometimes said that ‘the weather in the US reaches the UK 7 days later’. Although there is the potential that, as the storm tracks across the Atlantic towards our shores, it will bring a spell of strong winds and heavy rain next week, we are not expecting any snow as temperatures will remain close to, or above the seasonal average.