This past weekend's record warmth may seem like a distant memory by this upcoming weekend as forecasters are monitoring the potential for a major storm to develop and deliver widespread wintry precipitation -- and perhaps the biggest snowstorm of the season for some metropolitan areas.
A pair of weak storms will first spread snow over the northern tier, replacing the mild air that has been gripping the region with colder air from Canada and laying the ground for a more significant storm with snow and ice in the Northeast this weekend.
"The weekend storm may bring the most substantial wintry precipitation of the season so far for parts of the Northeast, including the I-95 corridor," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister said.
One weak storm will spread a bit of snow across upstate New York and northern New England later Tuesday into early Wednesday.
A second weak storm is forecast to follow with snow or a wintry mix as far south as northern Pennsylvania and southern New England late Wednesday night and Thursday. Gusty winds will follow this system and allow cold air to take root at the end of the week.
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The greatest chance of a wintry mix for Virginia and snow for northern New Jersey and the New York City area is likely to come this weekend as a large storm moves in from the Midwest and taps into fresh cold air in the region.
The far-reaching storm will first hit highways and major airline hubs of the Midwest beginning Friday, and ripple-effect delays are possible across the Northeast prior to the storm's arrival in the region. Flight delays and cancellations are likely to ramp up Saturday as snow and a wintry mix spread eastward.
Motorists with travel plans along the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts turnpikes, as well as the New York Thruway and Southern Tier Expressway and interstates 64, 66, 68, 70, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93, and 95 should be prepared for wintry conditions and travel delays.
Snow is forecast to transition to ice and rain from northern Virginia to southeastern New York at the storm's peak, and up to a few inches of wintry mix is expected over areas farther north across the upper mid-Atlantic region. Meanwhile, a foot of snow or more could pile up in parts of the central Appalachians and New England.
"It's a tricky forecast at this stage with the timing and primary form of precipitation from the central Appalachians to the upper mid-Atlantic and the southern New England coasts," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said.
"Regardless of how warm it has been, we are at the point of the winter where cold air does not give up too easily and this cold wedge on the front side of the storm could spell wintry trouble for a number of locations," he added.
Cities such as Portland, Maine; Concord, New Hampshire; Rutland, Vermont; Boston and Albany, New York, have the potential to receive a heavy amount of snow from this storm. Only fast movement of the storm is likely to prevent it from becoming a blockbuster snowfall for northern areas.
New York City is a close call between an all-heavy-snowstorm and a snow to ice and rain then back to snow event. The all snow scenario would occur if the storm shifts its track farther south or a second storm forms quickly enough east of New Jersey and stops the northward progression of warmer air.
Thus far this winter the biggest snowfall in New York City was 1.6 inches that fell in early December -- and the Big Apple has only received 35% of the normal snowfall this winter to date, which is way behind pace. The low snowfall is a result of fast-moving storms and a lack of sustained cold air. However, the weekend storm might represent a change in the weather pattern with more long-lasting cold weather expected to set up in the Northeast during the latter part of January, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
A national analysis of snow depth across the United States since October 2019 shows limited snowfall along the Northeast's Interstate 95 corridor, despite occasional snowfall that has visited the interior Northeast. (National Weather Service/National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center)
The storm is likely to generate strong winds on its frontside in New England and on its back side throughout the region.
Blowing and drifting snow is likely from central and northern New England to upstate New York and perhaps farther south, where no change to ice or rain occurs.
A period of lake-effect snow and snow squalls is likely to follow the storm on Sunday across northern and western New York, western Pennsylvania, northeastern Ohio, western Maryland and northern and eastern West Virginia.