Thursday, January 21, 2016

Giant Storm Update: Mid-Atlantic States Still Totally Screwed

Traffic hopelessly mired Wednesday evening near Washington
DC after an inch of snow made roads icy. So what are
they going to do with the 20 inches forecast over the weekend? 
Well, this doesn't bode well.

The Washington DC area and its surrounding suburbs are still expecting a blizzard, with one to two feet of snow and strong winds Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday evening, a little mini-preview storm rolled through Our Nation's Capitol, dropping maybe an inch of snow.

Everything fell apart. Traffic came to a standstill on the ice and there were tons of accidents. Even President Obama's motorcade got stalled in the mess and kept sliding off the roads.

Things are still snarled down there this morning.

An inch of snow mired Washington. What's 18 inches going to do?

If I lived in that region, I'd just hibernate and forget the whole thing.

It's pretty impressive that the forecasts have remained pretty consistent regarding this storm for three days now, at least.

The forecast still calls for the heaviest snow - one to three feet - to fall in parts of the Mid-Atlantic states and the central Appalachians.  A few cities in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland might end up having their largest snowstorms on record.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, the expected deep snow is what everybody's talking about, but the biggest danger to life and property are coastal floods and surges, a likely nasty ice storm in the Carolinas, and possible tornadoes along the Gulf Coast, and in and near Florida.

Let's break it down again:


There's an enhanced risk of severe storms and tornadoes today, especially in much of Louisiana, southern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama. An enhanced risk, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, means numerous severe thunderstorms are likely to develop.

In this case, the storm that will cause the Mid-Atlantic blizzard and ice is gathering strength as it travels from Texas toward the Carolinas. As it does so, it will draw warmth, moisture and instability from the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the tornado and severe storm threat.

The threat of severe thunderstorms and maybe a tornado or two will spread into northwestern Florida Friday.


As I said, everybody's talking about all the snow that looks like it's going to fall, but some people are in for a very dangerous ice storm with this one.

Pinning down exact locations and amounts of freezing rain are always tough with these kinds of storms, but the target area looks to be central North Carolina, parts of South Carolina and maybe southeastern Virginia.
The scene in Raleigh, North Carolina during a snow and ice
storm last February. Similar scenes can be expected Friday
and Saturday in North Carolina as snow and ice move
in. Photo byLindsay Webb. 

There will probably be enough ice in these areas to bring down trees and power lines. This being the south, all this ice is going to create a HUGE mess in the Carolinas.

This storm will end up reminding of that famous photo from last winter, when a snow and ice storm resulted in a car fire, lots of stuck cars and chaos on a Raleigh, North Carolina road.

I'd stay home Friday through the weekend if I lived in the Carolinas.


Another aspect of the upcoming storm that hasn't been getting enough attention is the coastal flooding that's sure to hit the shores from Virginia to Long Island.

Most of the coastal flood watches mention moderate to major coastal flooding through three high tide cycles this weekend. The moon is full, so that makes the high tides associated with the storm even higher.

Sea levels that have increased in recent decades due to global warming and East Coast land sinking will help make matters worse with this storm.

Many forecasters are expecting tides in some areas to be among the top five highest on record. Huge battering waves amid 60 mph winds will make it even worse. I'm afraid we're going to see images on the news of beachfront homes crumbling, being ripped apart by waves or being washed away by the storm tides.

This piece of the storm is especially dangerous, so coastal communities from Long Island to North Carolina ought to be super, super careful.


Blizzard watches are up for Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland and in the New York City area and Long Island. Winter storm watches and warnings are up for a huge area from Arkansas to New York.

This is forecast to be the second or third deepest snowstorm on record for Washington DC. I don't think they'll beat the record of 28 inches set in 1922.

But 20 inches or so of snow is not going to be a happy time for our nation's capitol. Maybe all those people running for president will drop out of the race today, because they don't want to live in a town that shuts down in an inch of snow, never mind two feet.

It won't help that the winds will gust to 55 mph or so during the storm, so maybe we'll get lucky and the drifts will cover the Capitol building burying all those Congress creatures, putting them out of sight, out of mind.

Seriously, though. Anybody who needs to prepare for this storm better do it today. Assuming the roads improve from last night's epic inch of snow.

Up in New York City and Long Island, less snow is forecast than in Washington, DC. The Big Apple is forecast to get maybe 8 to 12 inches of snow, along with those strong winds.

The forecast for New York has a big bust potential. They'll be near the northern edge of the storm's heavy snow. If the storm jogs just a tiny bit north, New York could get MUCH more snow than foreast.

If the storm curves just a wee bit south, New York would get barely a few inches, if that.

In some of the hardest hit areas, especially in West Virginia, western and central Virginia and the North Carolina mountains, I still wouldn't be surprised if we get some reports of three feet of snow out of this.

Eventually, all this snow will melt. If it goes to quickly, it could maybe lead to flooding down the road. Long range forecasts for a little over a week for now call for above normal temperatures and above normal rainfall in areas that are expected to be hardest hit by this blizzard.

It never ends, does it?

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