Even the mid-Atlantic and Northeast will be in the action.
There is still a lot to be determined, but one thing is 100% certain – it happens.
A strong area of low pressure emerging from British Columbia will plunge across the central United States on Friday, mainly heading south. It’ll bring the incredible cold of Canada with it – and there’ll be enough humidity in place to throw plenty of snow across multiple regions over the weekend.
“Conditions are expected to rapidly deteriorate across parts of North Dakota tonight, before snow shifts to eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota on Friday morning,” the Weather Prediction Center said Thursday.
“Extensive snowfall likely greater than 4 inches, with a probability of more than 8 inches from southeastern North Dakota to central Iowa.”
In some places, including Des Moines, Iowa, snow will begin to fall on Friday. “Snowfall is likely to be 14 to 20 hours in most locations allowing for a widespread build-up of over 4 inches and some locations in excess of 8 inches or more,” the Des Moines National Weather Service said.
Driving conditions at speed will become very dangerous in these areas, as the roads are filled with snow.
“Visibility will be significantly reduced within heavy snow ranges at rates of up to one inch per hour and during periods of gusty winds,” the forecast center said.
Winds over 60 mph are possible across the high plains where the cold front races. Winds will cause any new snow to fall, reducing visibility, especially on the roads.
Another hit of winter in the middle of the south
As the storm system quickly moves south, a winter weekend will begin. Little Rock, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and even Jackson, Mississippi, could all see snow.
Memphis may be the big winner when it comes to snowfall in this area. It will start as rain and turn to snow from west to east Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“At this point, the question is not about will it snow, but where the heavy snow bands have formed and how much is falling,” the Memphis Meteorological Service said. “Models are still inconsistent which creates difficult predictions about snow accumulations.”
While most areas in this region will likely see 2 inches of snow or less, “there is a possibility of a band of 6-8 inches of snow occurring somewhere near northeastern Arkansas, Missouri Butyl and western Tennessee,” the Memphis Weather Service said.
Once the system reaches central Tennessee and the Southeast, the uncertainty increases dramatically. As of Thursday morning, the forecast was for rain to start in Nashville, then turn to snow Saturday night through Sunday.
“While we are unable to know exactly where and where it will be built, it is important to let the public and our partners know across the region that some areas could have significantly more snow — greater than 6 inches,” the Nashville Weather Service said.
There may be wide bands in snowfall accumulations in Central Tennessee, and forecasts here may not adjust until just before the system arrives.
Will it rain, snow or snow in the Southeast?
This system should bring winter weather to the region, but will it be enough to bring measurable snowfall to Atlanta?
With each model run, it seems unlikely that there will be much build-up within the city, but expectations are still changing. Models are still trying to come together and agree on exactly what will happen, but they’re still different — making this storm even more difficult to predict.
While areas around Atlanta, particularly the northern suburbs, will see all kinds of precipitation, deciding who gets to get what remains somewhat difficult.
The mountains of North Georgia have the best chances of seeing the largest snowfall totals, while areas near Atlanta may see more rain with little snow mixed in. The uncertainty lies in where this cut-off line will be.
“Warmer temperatures toward the ATL metro will lend all the rain with the occasional snow to mix,” the city’s weather service said. “However, we will have to monitor light ice, especially in the eastern ATL region.”
There may be a snapshot of snow for the Atlanta area on the back side of the system on Sunday, but it’s still too early to call.
“So, the main message is — get ready for winter weather and potentially significant travel impacts, but you have to understand that these winter storms are hard to predict and change quickly,” the Nashville Weather Service said. “Even small changes in power and trajectory can mean massive changes in realistic effects.”
After the system bottoms across the Deep South, it will bounce north just as quickly, riding a thin line with the I-95 corridor.
A suffocating ice storm is expected to develop
A major ice event could form across the states of Carolina and Virginia, leaving millions without power and impossible travel conditions. Cities, including Raleigh, North Carolina, could see more snow than previously expected.
“Over the past 72 hours, the westerly direction of the low surface moving inland is making the large-scale ice event appear more and more west of I-95,” the Raleigh Weather Service said.
This creates a whole other set of problems.
Wherever freezing rain and sleet fall, there will be instant freezing on roads and bridges. Navigating on the highways will become almost impossible due to the slick conditions.
It’s important that motorists pay close attention to these ever-changing forecasts over the next few days, especially across the Carolinas, to see where and how much of the snow is occurring.
Just half an inch of ice can add 500 pounds to a portion of the power line, and it can be hacked with less.
Winter hit from the mid-Atlantic to New England
As the system moves north, toward the mid-Atlantic, ice becomes less of a problem and rain and snow are the main players.
However, that still means nightmares of traveling to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore on Sunday and Monday.
For this region, the heaviest snowfall appears to be across the interior of the mid-Atlantic, with rain falling mainly near the coast.
This does not mean that the capital will not see any snow, just that the heaviest snow will be farther inland. “We haven’t quite gotten within the range of any forecasts for how much snow will fall just yet, so there’s still a good time for things to change one direction or another,” the Baltimore/DC Weather Service said.
In the New York City area, rain is expected to begin on Sunday afternoon. “For inland areas, there can be a rapid discharge of heavy snow, especially in the far north and west as one goes,” the New York City Weather Service said.
Which areas will see the most rain and which areas will see the most snow will be determined by how close the area of the low pressure trails is to the coast. If the lower trails are far to the west, most major cities will experience cold rain, while the interior will see snow.
If the lower paths are further east – More outside, then we can see more snowfall accumulating in big cities.
The highest snowfall rates will continue to occur throughout inland New England.
Stormy winds will accompany the front’s passage, and there could be 35mph winds around New York City on Monday afternoon.
Wind conditions will reach Boston as well, which could lead to minor coastal flooding. Forecasts for the Northeast and New England will be adjusted in the coming days. Any difference in the storm’s path will bring about changes in the forecast.