A wintry system that will make a cross-country tour beginning this weekend has the potential to develop into a powerful, damaging and very disruptive storm along the East Coast next week.
Northwest and Plains
The storm is cruising northern Pacific waters to close out this week and will push into the Pacific Northwest this weekend with a modest dose of rain and mountain snow.
Some of the early weather-related problems with the storm in the Northwest this weekend will be drenching rain along the coast and snow dipping to pass levels. As with many storms that bring snow to the high country and shifting snow levels in the Northwest, there is a risk of avalanches.
In fact, most of the life of this storm as it traverses the Northwest (March 2-3), then the northern Rockies and central Plains into early next week (March 3-4) will not be blockbusting news.
Through this point, the storm will tend to bring travel disruptions typical of the winter months with a swath of light to moderate snow. On a positive note, the storm will provide some moisture to a needy area. (States in the path of the modest storm to this point include, but are not limited to, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri).
Midwest and South
However, toward the middle of next week (March 4-5), as this storm crosses the Mississippi River, changes taking place in the upper atmosphere will favor gradual strengthening to the Atlantic coast. Moisture will begin to feed into the storm from the Gulf of Mexico, and we are likely to start to see heavier precipitation in the form of snow over the Ohio Valley states and snow, rain and thunderstorms to parts of the South and the mid-Atlantic. (States likely to be most involved at this point include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia).
Once the storm reaches the Atlantic coast Wednesday into Thursday (March 6-7), conditions at most levels in the nearby atmosphere and well away from the storm throughout North America will favor explosive development. At this point, the storm could become a real monster. While being too cold and stopping shy of becoming a tropical system, it could pack the punch like one with serious impacts to lives, property and travel plans.
According to Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, “There may be similarities to a storm which affected much of the same area around March 6, 1962.”
This graphic is for illustration purposes of one scenario of what the jet stream pattern may resemble March 6-7, 2013.
The track of this atmospheric bomb will determine whether or not portions of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England have a foot or more of windswept snow, hurricane-force gusts, power outages, coastal flooding, flooding rain and travel mayhem with a storm hugging the coast or another non-event with the storm heading out to sea. (States on the bubble for a major storm or a near-miss include North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia).
At this point, it is too early to alter plans, but rather something to keep an eye on and perhaps come up with “Plan B” in case a major blizzard unfolds and wallops areas from Richmond and Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Providence and Cape Cod Wednesday into Thursday.
People and officials in coastal areas may want to review emergency procedures for the chance that the storm overachieves, as we have suggested it could, and makes the northward turn up the coast.
As the track develops over land this weekend, we will have more information to pass along to followers on AccuWeather.com related to the timing of the precipitation and amount of snow and rain, and the severity of thunderstorms, wind, seas and coastal flooding.
Thumbnail graphic illustration by Photos.com
AccuWeather-East Coast Monster Storm Risk Next Week.
This story was originally published at 10:30 a.m. EST, Thurs., Feb. 28, 2013 and has been updated at 9:15 a.m., Fri., Mar. 1. More storm-specific graphics and additional stories on the situation forthcoming.