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Home NewsCNN Winter’s first major winter storm set to hit the eastern US with heavy rain and potentially significant snow

Winter’s first major winter storm set to hit the eastern US with heavy rain and potentially significant snow

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Originally Published: 02 JAN 24 13:24 ET

Updated: 03 JAN 24 11:21 ET

By Eric Zerkel, CNN

(CNN) — A major winter storm is setting up to thrash much of the eastern US this weekend with heavy rain, strong winds and potentially the first significant snow of the season.

The storm also presents the first chance in nearly two years of more than an inch of snow for some major cities in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

It’s still too early to say which cities will see snow versus rain, let alone how much snow could fall, with questions remaining on the storm’s final track, timing and intensity.

What is known is that an an impactful winter storm capable of disrupting travel is coming this weekend. It’s coming from an active Pacific storm track typical of an El Niño winter, which is sending a series of storms across the US into next week.

The system responsible for the potential winter weather will first cross the southern half of the US through Friday, before swooping up the East through the weekend.

In much of the South and Southeast this will mean a cool rain as the storm taps into ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana and Mississippi, still suffering from drought after a summer of extreme heat and a lack of rain, are in the bull’s-eye for what would be largely beneficial rain.

Rain will begin Thursday evening in central Texas and progress with the storm’s track to the east, overrunning the Southeast and parts of the mid-Atlantic with time. This storm could cause flooding issues in the South, particularly in areas drenched earlier in the week, but its quick-moving nature should limit the potential for repeated rounds of rain.

Confidence in the storm’s exact track drops after it leaves the Southeast. Forecast models on Wednesday agreed an impactful storm will track through the mid-Atlantic Saturday and then the Northeast Saturday night and Sunday. Those outlooks suggested it will deliver significant snow where there’s cold air, but differed on how much snow could fall and where.

Strong winds and coastal flooding are also possible, the exact magnitude of which in specific areas will also rely on the storm’s track and intensity.

The highest confidence for significant snow was in higher elevation areas of the Appalachians and the interior Northeast, including central Pennsylvania and interior New York.

With heavy precipitation expected, the key question will be where it falls as snow and where it falls as rain, especially along the highly populated I-95 corridor from Washington, DC, to Boston.

Just 50 miles could separate areas that experience heavy snow from those that experience mixed precipitation or only rain, meaning small shifts in the storm’s final track and timing will make a massive difference.

If even an inch of snow were to fall in major cities along the I-95 corridor, it would end significant snowless streaks for some that have dragged on for nearing two years.

New York City has waited nearly 700 days for an inch of snow in a single calendarday. Only 2.3 inches fell in Central Park during the entirety of 2023, making itthe city’s least snowy calendar year on record, according to the National Weather Service. The same was true for Philadelphia and the DC area’s Dulles International Airport.

It’s not as if the Northeast has gone without precipitation. In mid-December, a powerful and deadly coastal storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands and triggered severe flooding across the region.

But it’s just been too warm for precipitation to fall as snow, something that’s becoming more common as global temperatures rise because of planet-warming fossil fuel pollution.

Much of the US endured a warmer-than-average December. The warmer temperatures meant snow was harder to come by. As a result, snow cover, or how much land is covered by snow, is at its lowest extent in North America since 2005, NOAA data shows.

The-CNN-Wire
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Snow Chances Winter Storm

Embargo: NONE A weekend storm will deliver heavy precipitation to the eastern US, but exactly where snow will fall is uncertain, meaning this graphic will change in the coming days.

CNN

02 Jan 24

Weekend Storm Tracks

Embargo: NONE The exact track of the storm system, along with the availability of cold air, will determine who sees snow or rain. A track more to the north would bring snow more inland.

CNN

02 Jan 24

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