The official start to winter is less than three weeks away, but Mother Nature didn't get the memo apparently. Less than one week after a storm hammered parts of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes with heavy snow, forecasters are warning of a storm that will develop hundreds of miles farther to the east and is likely to bring heavy snow and punishing winds.
The storm that brought heavy snow to parts of the southern Plains at midweek will re-energize along the Eastern Seaboard and take a track just off the coast of the northeastern United States from late Friday to Saturday night, putting central and northern New England in the path of the heaviest snow.
A storm track just offshore will allow the storm to undergo significant strengthening, which will add to the intensity of impact across New England. The same anticipated scenario will allow the mid-Atlantic and central Appalachians to dodge much, but not all, of the storm's effects.
As the storm begins to strengthen, drenching rain and thunderstorms are expected to first pivot across the Southeast and break out in part of the mid-Atlantic region into Friday evening. Then rain and thunderstorms are likely to erupt across the Interstate 95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England from Friday night to Saturday.
"There is the likelihood of heavy and gusty thunderstorms and the potential for locally severe storms that could produce isolated tornadoes, especially in the panhandle of Florida into Friday evening and then eastern part of North Carolina during Friday night," storm warning meteorologist Joe Curtis said.
Rain is expected to be heavy enough to cause localized urban flooding from central Virginia to southeastern Massachusetts.
From Saturday to Saturday night, the storm will rapidly strengthen, tapping into colder air and Atlantic Ocean moisture with New England in the crosshairs.
"Boston will be on the edge of the heavy snow with 1-3 inches forecast in the heart of the downtown area as some rain will fall for a time, but a 3- to 6-inch snowfall is expected to start around Route 128 with accumulations trending upward farther to the north and west," AccuWeather senior meteorologist John Feerick said.
Feerick added that a slight shift in the storm track could cause the heavy snow to shift into the downtown area of Boston or possibly farther to the west in Massachusetts.
From central southern New Hampshire to northern Maine, as well as parts of New Brunswick and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, an all-out blizzard is anticipated with the worst conditions from late Saturday to Saturday night.
Forecasters expect the combination of heavy snow and wind gusts frequenting 40-60 mph to cause not only extensive blowing and drifting snow but also whiteout conditions. Travel will be dangerous and may be impossible for a time with 12-18 inches of snow in store.
Snow may fall at the rate of 2 inches per hour or greater in the heaviest snow bands of the storm. Snowfall of this intensity, combined with blowing and drifting, is likely to overwhelm road crews and some roads may close as a result.
"Around New York City, rain is mostly likely to simply end as westerly winds kick in on Saturday, but there is a slight chance of wet snow mixing in at the tail end of the storm late Saturday or early Saturday evening," Feerick said.
A small amount of accumulating snow is forecast over parts of northwestern New Jersey, the Hudson Valley of New York state and even in the mountains of West Virginia, western Maryland, northern and western Pennsylvania and parts of western and central New York state from the storm from Friday night to Saturday night.
In addition to the storm evolving into a nor'easter and blizzard in New England, forecasters will also be monitoring for the potential for this storm to go through the process that meteorologists call bombogenesis. A nor'easter is a storm that simply brings stiff northeasterly winds to a broad area along the coast in the eastern part of the United States. Bombogenesis, or rapid strengthening, occurs when the central barometric pressure of a storm plummets by 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. When a storm undergoes this level of intensification, it is referred to as a bomb cyclone.
Regardless of the classification of the storm, winds can become powerful enough along the coast in New England and on eastern Long Island, N.Y., to break tree limbs, knock over poorly rooted trees, lead to sporadic power outages and even cause minor property damage.
As quickly as the storm will arrive early this weekend, it will be just as quick to exit on Sunday. However, blustery conditions will prevail in the mid-Atlantic, and winds are likely to still howl across New England as the snow exits northern Maine, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec.
Chilly conditions are forecast to linger through early next week from the Great Lakes to a large part of the Atlantic coast in the wake of the storm, and that may set the stage for a round of winterlike conditions in areas farther to the south.
Snow may fall and accumulate in parts of the Carolinas, southern and eastern Virginia and perhaps southeastern Maryland and Delaware on Monday.