A crippling blizzard with epic snow amounts is about to strike the northeastern US and everyone there should brace for its impacts.
The National Weather Service has raised Blizzard Warnings for a large area now with blizzard conditions now expected to be sustained over several hours.
While most people associate a large snow storm with the word “blizzard”, that is meteorologically incorrect. Blizzards are defined by their winds and visibility; it is even possible to have a blizzard without any fresh snow falling. To meet blizzard criteria, bad weather conditions need to persist for more than 3 hours: namely, winds need to be at 35mph or more and visibility due to either fresh falling snow or blowing fallen snow needs to be reduced down to a quarter mile or less.
You don’t need to have blizzard conditions to have dangerous snow storm conditions. Blowing snow is wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow or it could be snow on the ground that is picked up by the wind. Snow flurries are typically defined as light snow falling for short duration with little to no accumulation while snow showers are known for snowfall at varying intensity for brief periods of time with light accumulations. Snow squalls, however, are severe, brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds, and while short-lived, snow squalls can produce quick and significant accumulations. In and after snow storms, snow squalls can threaten a region with additional hazards.
Blizzard Warnings are now in effect for:
- New York (Manhattan)
- Richmond (Staten Island)
- Kings (Brooklyn)
- Western Suffolk
- New London
- New Haven
Most of the rest of the northeast is under a Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow. While a Blizzard Warning is not yet up beyond the above counties, blizzard conditions are likely at times for places like Philadelphia and Boston as strong winds and heavy snow drop visibility from time to time …and just not at the 3-hour required period that must be sustained to reach full blizzard criteria.
Beyond heavy snow will be powerful, destructive winds. These winds will be especially severe at the immediate coast where some damage to homes and business will be possible. Strong sustained winds and damaging wind gusts will extend far inland, setting the stage for widespread power failures. Due to the depth of the snow and severity of the storm, some power outages may last for many days.
The coast will also be battered by violent surf; major coastal flooding and beach erosion are also possible, especially for the Jersey Shore and southeastern New England coast where conditions are expected to be their worst. Flood guidance for places like Atlantic City, NJ is calling for major flood problems during the Tuesday morning high tide cycle. Blow-out tides are also possible, especially for Jersey back bays, as the storm pulls away.
Snow will be extremely heavy, with widespread 1-2 feet amounts expected. Strong winds will help blow and drift snow around, even though most snow will be of the heavy, wet variety. Drifts may exceed 4′ in places. There’s also the chance of very isolated 2-3′ amounts, especially over the higher terrain from northeastern Pennsylvania north and east into central New England.
Snow will fall at exceptionally heavy rates in excess of 2″/hr; some snowfall rates may even reach a nearly unfathomable 5″/hr. This heavy snow will make it difficult to travel, let alone walk, with blinding visibility made worse by blowing snow in damaging wind gusts. Do NOT plan to venture out during the storm, especially in the Winter Storm Warning and Blizzard areas.
When thunder roars, head indoors; lightning can kill in any season. While thunderstorms are typically associated with warmer weather, thunderstorms do pop up in intense winter storms. Lightning in a snow thunderstorm is just as dangerous as lightning in its warmer-weather sibling. The acoustics of fresh snow cover and a landscape typically free of leaves can also help make thunder sound more dramatic than it does at other times of the year. While some may be mesmerized by the sounds and scenes of thunderstorms inside snowstorms, people must remember that a thunderstorm at any time of year in any kind of weather is dangerous. Numerous thunder snowstorms are likely with this storm.
This will be a crippling snowstorm that will take an extended amount of time to recover from. All modes of transportation will be impacted and it may take more than 36 hours to restore access and service to some.
According to Flightaware, there are already 1,160 flight cancellations today, 952 for Tuesday, and already 32 cancellations for Wednesday. We expect these numbers to dramatically increase as the storm intensifies and nears the northeast.