World

New York, Northeast brace for massive blizzard

Bloomberg

A storm could bring blizzard conditions to New York and large parts of the U.S. Northeast while dropping more than 1 foot (30 cm) of snow across New Jersey and Long Island and as much as 2 feet through eastern New England, including Boston, threatening travel delays, school cancellations and blackouts.

Snow and rain will begin Sunday night in Mid-Atlantic states, where Baltimore and Washington may get as much as 6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The storm will then strengthen rapidly and bring its heaviest amounts from New York into New England.

“The system will deepen rapidly Monday through Tuesday,” said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “There are some blizzard watches on Long Island and eastern Massachusetts; that is because not only is heavy snow forecast but the wind is going to pick up.”

In addition to the blizzard watches, which have also been posted for along New Jersey’s coast into New England, including New York City, winter storm warnings, watches and advisories stretch from central Indiana to Maine, the weather service said. The storm will strike one of the most densely populated parts of the country that contains hubs for road, rail and air transportation.

At least seven major airports, including Newark Liberty International and New York’s LaGuardia Airport, are in the path of the storm and Amtrak’s Acela service, along with regional commuter rail operations, will be affected. Interstate 95 parallels the U.S. East Coast from Maine to Florida.

New York City has an estimated population of 8.4 million and Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island have about 2.9 million residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city has a 70 percent chance of getting more than 8 inches of snow and a 55 percent chance of receiving greater than a foot, the weather service said.

The greatest impact on Boston commuter rail and rapid transit will probably occur on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said on its website. The transit authority may reduce its schedules at the height of the storm.

A high wind watch has also been posted for Cape Cod. Gusts may reach 70 mph (113 kph) with sustained winds holding at 45 mph during the storm, the weather service said.

“Powerful winds may result in downed trees and power outages,” the weather service said. “This is especially true where heavy wet snow accumulates adding to the potential for wind damage.”

Flurries will begin in New York late Sunday and snow will build during the day on Monday.

“The heaviest snow won’t come until Monday night into Tuesday,” said Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.

As much as 18 to 24 inches are expected in a corridor from Providence, Rhode Island, to Boston, the weather service said. Northern and coastal New Jersey may get 10 to 14 inches, while eastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, could see 6 to 8.

The storm that will cause this is currently in the central U.S. moving across Iowa and Missouri, Hurley said. It will leave from 2 to 4 inches across the Ohio Valley.

As it comes east, the low pressure system at its heart will be blocked by the Appalachian Mountains.

At that point a secondary low pressure system will re-form in the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia and North Carolina and this will be the storm that rapidly strengthens and covers the Northeast with snow, he said. It almost looks like the storm jumped over the mountains.

“When they take that trajectory they tend to re-form and do so explosively,” Hurley said. “The main game here is the low offshore.”

The process of re-forming the storm also adds an element of uncertainty to the forecast. If the storm strengthens more rapidly, snow totals in Washington and Baltimore could rise, Hurley said.

If the storm’s track to the north hugs the coast more, then warmer air and rain may keep snow totals on the lower end in the large cities along Interstate 95, including New York, he said.

Through most of January, the Northeast U.S. has been spared any major snowstorms. A small system moved through during Saturday.

“As dull has it had been for the Eastern Seaboard for the last couple of weeks that is going to change,” Hurley said.

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