U.S. East Coast Blitzed by Fast-Moving, High-Impact Winter Storm

Sea ice floats in Boston Harbor, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Boston. After a week of frigid temperatures, a major winter storm is predicted for the region on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By the time Friday is here, people along the length of North America’s East Coast will be recuperating from a punishing round of heavy snow, high winds, and bitter cold. This nor’easter—dubbed Grayson by The Weather Channel—will rank among the most impressive of recent decades in its fast development, deep low pressure, and fierce winds. Various models agreed that Grayson’s surface low would deepen by an astounding 30-40 millibars or more from late Wednesday to late Thursday, more than qualifying the midlatitude cyclone as a meteorological “bomb” (defined as 24 millibars of deepening in 24 hours). The deepening rate could be among the strongest observed off the East Coast in the last several decades of records, according to David Roth (NWS).

As of late Wednesday, blizzard warnings covered parts of each coastline from North Carolina to Maine. Some uncertainty in the storm track remained on Wednesday night—complicated by the storm’s rapid development and unusual strength—but Grayson’s center should remain just far enough offshore to keep the worst impacts east of the I-95 corridor until the storm reaches southeast New England. There, Grayson may produce a strong enough blizzard to impress even the hardest-bitten Yankee. Snow amounts won’t be off the charts, but the impact will be worsened by winds at gale force or stronger and frigid temperatures, especially in the 24 to 48 hours after Grayson has passed.

Another Southern-style snowstorm

The Deep South’s second major snowfall of this winter is carving a path even further southeast than the first one, back in December. Freezing rain coated parts of far northeast Florida on Wednesday, closing a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 10and depositing a quarter-inch glaze all the way to Lake City, about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. Icing up to a half-inch was reported in Brunswick, GA, and a band of snow dropped 1” to 3.5” across far southeast Georgia, according to an NWS/WPC storm summary issued Wednesday afternoon.

Grayson intensified quickly on Wednesday afternoon off the Southeast coast, generating even heavier snow along and just inland from the South Carolina shoreline. Charleston picked up 5.3″, with even larger amounts at some nearby points. The only other storms ever to officially produce at least 4” of snow in Charleston were in February 1973 (7.1”) and December 1989 (8”).

What’s expected up the coast

Hampton Roads and vicinity (far southeast VA and far northeast NC):  High-resolution computer models—especially the HRRR model—have been consistenly targeting this small area for a pocket of heavier snow, perhaps 8-12” or more.

Washington, D.C.:  The metro area lies on the outer edge of Grayson’s predicted snow shield. Amounts will probably range from flurries toward Dulles Airport to several inches toward Chesapeake Bay. Even an inch or two in the city could mess with Thursday-morning commutes, noted Capital Weather Gang. Heavier amounts up to 10” are possible over far southeast Maryland, Delaware, and southeast New Jersey, where a blizzard warning was in effect. “Travel will be very dangerous to impossible” late Wednesday into Thursday, warned the NWS office in Mt. Holly, NJ.

Philadelphia, PA:  Much like D.C., the city will be on the outer edge of the expected snow shield, so amounts should be relatively light, especially toward northwest parts of town. Here again, high winds and sharp cold will make any snowfall that much worse.

New York, NY:  As is so often the case, snow amounts could range wildly across the broad New York area, from a dusting over the western suburbs to a foot or more across eastern Long Island. The city itself is most likely to get a garden-variety snow of several inches, albeit with fierce winds and very cold temperatures.

New England:  Grayson will be a mature storm by the time it passes within about 100 miles of Cape Cod late Thursday. Models are projecting Grayson’s central pressure could be in the 950-mb range by this point—on par with many hurricanes! Intense snowfall, with a chance of thundersnow, is a good bet across Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, the New Hampshire shore, and coastal and eastern Maine. A foot or more could fall in some areas.

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Source: Wunderground