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Blizzard warnings issued for mid-Atlantic to New England as Nor'easter looms

By Ryan Adamson, Accuweather.com
Blizzard warnings issued for mid-Atlantic to New England as Nor'easter looms
Pedestrians take photos of ducks in The Pond surrounded by snow covered trees in Central Park after a snow storm in New York City on  January 7. Another big storm is forecast for the Northeast this weekend.  Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Residents across the mid-Atlantic and New England on Friday were bracing for a major weekend snowstorm as a nor'easter is forecast to develop and rapidly strengthen into a bomb cyclone as it moves northward along the Eastern Seaboard.

AccuWeather forecasters say the storm could unload over 3 feet of snow and up to 90-mph winds as it pounds eastern New England and creates an all-out blizzard -- one that not only has the potential to be a top-five winter storm for cities like Boston but could leave a lasting impression on the region for this decade and perhaps many more to come.

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"This is going to be a dangerous, life-threatening storm, especially in southern New England," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said.

The rapidly strengthening nor'easter is likely to be the strongest and most disruptive snowstorm and blizzard in several years for portions of New England and the immediate mid-Atlantic coast due to ferocious winds and snowfall rates that will have the ability to strand motorists, shut down major highways and airports and leave some communities isolated and in the dark.

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"Bands of heavy snow will develop in eastern New England during the heart of the storm that can produce 2-4 inches of snow per hour - extremely intense snowfall rates," Porter said. "There will also be the potential for thunder and lightning associated with these intense bands. Travel is likely to be nearly impossible in parts of southeastern New England on Saturday and Saturday night."

Similar conditions will be felt along the immediate coasts of New Jersey, southern Delaware and eastern Maryland.

When such intense snowfall combines with the high winds anticipated, snowdrifts as high as several feet or even as tall as a two-story building will be possible.

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Boston will be close to the heart of the storm, which is expected to unload 18-24 inches in the city. It is not out of the question for the blizzard to rank high in the top-five biggest snowstorms to impact the city, and it could not only be the biggest to hit Beantown in January, but rival the Blizzard of '78 or the biggest snowstorm on record from Feb. 17-18, 2003, if amounts surpass 27 inches.

Other locations that will see a similar dumping of snow, with the potential for an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 42 inches, are Providence, Rhode Island, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine.

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Measuring the snow in Boston and many other areas in eastern New England, however, may be an exercise in futility for some. Due to the extensive amount of blowing and drifting of snow expected from the blizzard, taking an accurate reading could be extremely difficult. Moreover, travel could become impossible due to the significant drifting of snow.

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Just south and west of this zone from Islip, New York, to Hartford, Connecticut, Springfield, Massachusetts, Concord, New Hampshire, and Bangor, Maine, 12-18 inches are in store, forecasters say, which is still a tremendous accumulation considering the major blowing and drifting snow that is anticipated during and after the storm.

By Friday morning, winter storm warnings had been issued for areas from eastern Maryland to central Maine. A blizzard warning was in effect for parts of the mid-Atlantic from around Atlantic City, New Jersey, southward to the Delaware beaches and even around Ocean City, Maryland.

In coastal Massachusetts, including Boston, as well as coastal New Hampshire northward to the central Maine coast, blizzard warnings valid for the same time period had also been issued on Friday morning.

In northern New England, blizzard warnings were hoisted in coastal Maine, including Portland. Farther inland, winter storm warnings were issued, including the state capital of Augusta.

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Right along, New York City has been forecast by AccuWeather to be buried by a heavy snowfall of 6 to 12 inches. Farther south, anticipated snow accumulations will be lower in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The heaviest snow will come down east of those cities as drier air is expected to reduce snow in the city centers and in areas farther to the west. Still, Philadelphia is expected to pick up 3 to 6 inches of snow from the storm. The nation's capital and Baltimore's Inner Harbor will receive up to a couple of inches.

To prepare, the New York City Sanitation Department has 700 salt spreaders in the city loaded up and ready to respond to the storm.

"We're telling people to stay off the roads, only do essential travel, be very careful, this is another snow where, coupled with the snow coming in, we're talking about really high winds," New York City Sanitation Department Commissioner Edward Grayson told AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor.

Coastal areas of the mid-Atlantic will face the most significant impacts of the region. Atlantic City, New Jersey, a city that is already far-outpacing seasonal snowfall in Philadelphia -- 4.6 inches -- with a total of 17.2 inches as of Friday, could pick up another 12-18 inches. Farther south, places like Ocean City, Maryland, are expected to get about a foot of snow.

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Winds gusting to strong tropical storm force, 50-70 mph will blast the mid-Atlantic coast as hurricane-force gusts, some reaching as high as 90 mph, are expected to howl in southeastern New England. In both regions, the fierce winds will accompany heavy snowfall with the visibility being reduced to near-zero at times, AccuWeather forecasters say.

Even though the dry, powdery snow will not cling to trees and power lines, the high-velocity winds alone can break large tree limbs and knock over poorly-rooted trees.

As trees and limbs come down, power outages at the local and regional levels are likely in southern and eastern New England, as well as along the immediate mid-Atlantic coast. Forecasters and officials are advising people to be prepared for lengthy power outages and have flashlights and blankets on hand. Utility companies in New England are bracing for the storm. Maine Power is preparing by staging crew around the area.

"We've brought in 300 additional lineworkers. This compliments our 200 internal lineworkers. And we're also going to be bringing in some additional tree crews. So, we'll be mobilizing all of those resources over the next couple of days," said Central Maine Power VP of Electric Operations, Adam Desrosiers.

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Temperatures will plunge through the 20s and teens F in many areas and even into the single digits in northern New England during the storm. AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will plunge well below zero. People who get caught out in the storm will be a risk for frostbite, hypothermia and life-threatening conditions.

Parts of the Southeast will be sideswiped by the big storm. Up to a few inches of snow can fall across portions of eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia that were hit by significant snow and ice this past weekend. Areas of slippery travel are likely to extend as far to the west as the southern Appalachians.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on Thursday ahead of the storm expected to arrive in the area late Friday. "The key message for all Virginians is to stay aware of the weather conditions and to stay off the roads if possible," Youngkin said, adding that resources have been mobilized, with a focus on coastal areas which are expected to be hit the hardest.

The strong circulation of the storm will push water toward the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts. The combination of winds, waves and high astronomical tides associated with the new moon will lead to moderate coastal flooding with a storm surge averaging 2-4 feet. This means that roads and neighborhoods subject to flooding during powerful winter storms and hurricanes will take on water due to significant overwash.

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The expanding and strengthening circulation of the storm will drive freezing air all the way southward into the Florida Peninsula, while gusty winds into Sunday can continue to cause blowing and drifting snow in New England and the coastal mid-Atlantic.

The storm's effects on travel can linger for days due to the number of crews and aircraft displaced by the storm and the amount of snow that the storm will unload. However, after Arctic cold at end of the weekend and the start of the week, temperatures will moderate during the middle of next week, and that should help with cleanup and travel to get back on track.

Scenes from the season's snow and ice

Rainfall and warmer weather brings a low fog to a snowy Central Park near the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace in New York City on February 3, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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