Complex storm to end calm stretch in Northeast before New Year's Eve

Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather,

A storm forecast to bring blizzard conditions to the Upper Midwest will re-energize in the northeastern United States with heavy rain for part the mid-Atlantic and substantial snow and ice for part of New England early next week.

As millions journey home from their Christmas destinations and some begin a New Year's holiday trip, the storm will throw a wrench into travel plans following relatively quiet weather conditions at Christmastime.

After mild weather conditions grip the Northeast through Monday, just enough cold air will be around to cause some snow and ice in parts of northern New York state as well as central and northern New England.

A weak storm system brought spotty rain and a bit of ice to the northern tier on Friday, but the next storm will be more potent with more moisture. Widespread and even heavy precipitation for some is predicted from late Sunday through Monday night.

Rain in store for most major cities

Rain is forecast to spread over the central Appalachians and lower Great Lakes region later Sunday and is expected to extend to the upper mid-Atlantic coast and southern New England during Sunday night.

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A thorough soaking is in store from eastern Pennsylvania and eastern New York state to New Jersey and southern New England. From 1 to 2 inches of rain is anticipated with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 3 inches.

The period from Sunday night into Monday afternoon is likely to be miserable in New York City and Philadelphia with drenching rain, foggy episodes and a brisk easterly wind. People commuting around the city should be prepared for urban flooding and travel delays on the highways and at the airports.

Meanwhile, occasional rain and balmy conditions are anticipated for Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh from Sunday to Monday. Temperatures may reach 60 F in Pittsburgh on Sunday and 70 in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

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Cold air wedge to promote snow, ice in New England

About 100 miles north of New York City, cold air will linger and lay the foundation for wintry precipitation.

The key to how much snow falls will be how successful a layer of warm air is able to extend northeastward.

"Should the warm air race in a few thousand feet above the ground, then little snow, on the order of a few inches or less, will fall," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "Should the cold air resist this warm wedge, then parts of central and northern New England could be buried under a foot of snow or more."

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The primary form of precipitation is likely to be snow for New Hampshire, southwestern Maine and northeastern Vermont. These areas stand the best chance of enough snow to shovel and plow.

"At some point, perhaps over northeastern Maine, too much dry air will be around and snow may struggle to move in and accumulate," Anderson said.

"A change to snow is likely farther south as a secondary storm forms, strengthens and drags colder air in," Anderson added.

The zone from near Boston to central Massachusetts, southern Vermont and northeastern and east-central New York state have the potential to receive not only a few inches of snow, but also a buildup of ice on the order of 0.25 to 0.50 of an inch thick that could trigger power outages.

The timing of change to freezing rain and sleet will have implications on snowfall totals across the region. Snow may be falling at the rate of 2 inches per hour around the time of the change for some areas. So where the change occurs rapidly, it can cut down the snow accumulation. If the wintry mix is delayed by a few hours, snow could rapidly pile up.


The band of this icy mess may shift farther to the northeast or southwest, depending on the where the battle zone between the warm and cold air sets up, so it is possible that Boston may receive an icy mix for a time. Hartford, Conn., and Albany, N.Y., may also get some ice mixed in.

The details on this delicate and complex weather pattern for the northeastern corner of the nation will continue to unfold through this weekend. It is possible some areas of northern New England will deal with snow and/or ice into Tuesday morning.

What will the weather be like after the storm?

In the wake of the storm, on New Year's Eve, colder air will funnel southeastward from central Canada, across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast.

The air will not be as cold as that which blasted the region a few days prior to Christmas, it will be cold enough to trigger some lake-effect snow near the lower Great Lakes and also cause some snow showers to wander through the central Appalachians and interior New England from Tuesday night to New Year's Day.

Experts urge motorists to be alert once again for rapidly changing weather conditions on the highways from sudden snow showers. Although temperatures will overall be higher during this snow shower event compared to last week's squalls, roads may still become slippery and snow-covered in the span of a few minutes, leading to dangerous conditions.


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