Late-Week Storm Could Reach ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Status Along Eastern Seaboard
Accuweather’s expert team of meteorologists is monitoring a powerful and far-reaching storm that will form at the end of the week and unload everything from rain and gusty thunderstorms to high winds, snow and a rapid freeze-up across the eastern third of the United States.
“Confidence is growing for a significant storm that will bring wide-reaching impacts,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said.
The end-of-the-week storm will form along the central Gulf Coast as frigid Arctic air dives southward and collides with warm, moist air across the South. From there, the storm is expected to ride north-northeastward along the leading edge of the cold push. This storm will arrive just days after a round of snow sweeps through the mid-Atlantic and New England around the middle of the week and another swath of snow blankets the Central states Wednesday through Thursday.
Forecasters say how far south and east that bitterly cold air plunges will play a pivotal role in the exact track of the storm and where the zones of rain, snow or a combination of the two set up.
At this time, locations that stand the best chance of accumulating snow include portions of Oklahoma to parts of Indiana, Ohio, southern Michigan, northwestern Pennsylvania, western and northern New York and part of northern New England, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
It is within this zone that the air will be cold enough at the onset of precipitation, or turn colder dramatically during the event, for snow to fall, with accumulations ranging from a couple of inches to half a foot or more.
The snow can come down at a fast enough pace to overcome the increasing March sun angle and turn roadways slushy and snow-covered even during the daylight hours.
The return to wintry weather may be a shock to the system for residents in the southern Plains following a midweek moderation in temperatures. Within the span of 24 hours, temperatures can take a nosedive of 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit as the cold air rushes into the region.
“Temperatures are forecast to shoot back up to near 70 in Dallas on Thursday, only to have rain, sleet and snow with temperatures dipping into the 30s on Friday,” Sosnowski said. The last time that Dallas had measurable snow (0.10 of an inch or more) during the month of March was in 2015.
Even areas as far south as Birmingham, Alabama, could have some snow Friday night after precipitation initially begins as rain, according to DaSilva.
As the storm progresses north-northeastward and takes aim at the Eastern Seaboard heading into the weekend, it is expected to undergo rapid strengthening, perhaps even reaching “bomb cyclone” status. The effect most often felt on the ground during this type of strengthening is strong winds, and forecasters say this is exactly what will unfold across the East this weekend, among a slew of other weather hazards.
“Winds across the entire Northeast and mid-Atlantic will be very gusty Saturday and Saturday night,” DaSilva said, adding that power outages could be widespread.
Tree damage is also of concern, forecasters say, especially if some limbs were weakened amid a line of gusty showers that swept from the central Appalachians to southeastern New England Monday.
“While there will be a threat for coastal flooding in New England Saturday, the good news is that the storm will arrive near astronomical low tide. As a result, coastal flooding may not be as big of a threat with this storm,” DaSilva said.
In terms of precipitation across the Northeast, AccuWeather meteorologists say the exact timing of the arrival of colder air will be crucial in determining whether locations receive heavy snow, rain changing to snow or all rain before precipitation comes to an abrupt end.
Sosnowski expressed concern about the magnitude of the cold air rushing eastward to the Appalachians with still a considerable amount of the storm to go.
“That could mean more than a coating to an inch or so and a more moderate accumulation of snow from the central Appalachians to western and northern New England,” Sosnowski said.
Even in a scenario where precipitation ends before the cold air rushes in and causes a changeover to snow, forecasters say there still could be widespread problems in terms of icy roads and sidewalks due to a sudden plunge in temperatures.
Even if the Interstate 95 corridor experiences mostly rain, a flash freeze is expected to occur Saturday afternoon and night which will likely freeze wet roads, according to DaSilva.
Travelers across the region this weekend are likely to face significant delays on the road and in the air. Some roads may become impassable due to downed trees and power lines.
AccuWeather meteorologists will also be actively monitoring the potential for severe weather on the southeastern side of the storm.
“The storm will have the possibility to produce severe thunderstorms from northern Florida to North Carolina,” DaSilva said, noting that damaging straight-line winds may be the biggest threat, along with sudden downpours. This will mark the final wave of stormy weather of the week for this part of the country, following rounds of disruptive but beneficial downpours.
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