This winter hurricane is a real piece of work. Do not underestimate it. This storm looks to be an all-star over achiever. And will be followed by colder air. and then more big storms.
God bless everyone,
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Year-End Arctic Chill Persists; Ice and Snow Loom from Florida to Maine
One of the warmest years in U.S. history ended with one of the coldest blasts ever recorded east of the Rockies for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Even though 2018 is now under way, the cold isn’t gone—and an explosively intensifying storm along the Gulf Stream will double down on the misery for millions along and near the East Coast.
On Tuesday morning, sleet pellets and snowflakes were peppering coastal areas near Houston (which had its warmest year on record in 2017). The unusual spritz was triggered by a surge of jet-stream energy diving into the cold upper trough that’s kept the eastern two-thirds of the nation in the deep freeze for more than a week. As this upper-level impulse pulls across the Gulf of Mexico, light freezing rain could fall late Tuesday night into early Wednesday as far south as southeast Georgia and the elbow of the Florida Panhandle, where a rare winter storm warning was in effect. Amounts should be light enough to avoid widespread power loss and tree damage, but roadways could be quite hazardous. The ice may be capped with an inch or two of snow as far south as Georgia.
WU weather historian Chris Burt looks back at some of the Southeast’s most spectacular winter weather events—including the colossal FL/GA/SC snow of 1800 and the New Orleans blizzard of 1899—in this archival post from 2011.
How big a nor’easter?
From the mid-Atlantic to New England, the big threat will be snow, strong winds, and brutal cold. As cold air and upper-level energy overspread the warm sea-surface waters of the Gulf Stream, the developing surface low should more than qualify for “bombogenesis” (a deepening of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours). There is very high confidence on the general track and intensity of this storm as it heads from off the mid-Atlantic Coast toward Nova Scotia, which will get a direct hit of heavy snow and high wind. As usual for East Coast winter storms, though, the devil lies in the details, including exactly how far northwest the storm tracks and the width of its swath of heavy precipitation.
As of the 12Z model runs on Tuesday morning, there was still enough uncertainty to keep a chance of significant snow along the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to New York. The highest-confidence areas for snow include far eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula, eastern New Jersey, and southeast New England. Amounts should be under 6” in many places, but more than a foot could fall across eastern Long Island, Rhode Island, and the swath from eastern Massachusetts to coastal Maine. There’s a bigger-than-usual asterisk on these projected amounts, depending on the track and evolution of the storm. If anything, models have been inching closer to the coast with the low placement. This would push the zone of significant snow further inland and hike the amounts along the immediate coast, with blizzard conditions not out of the question for parts of coastal New England. Watch for more details and updates on this storm, dubbed Grayson by The Weather Channel, at weather.com.
The coup de grâce on the back side of this nor’easter will be a fierce blast of high wind and bitter cold pushing from the Midwest into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. High temperatures on Friday and Saturday could struggle to reach 10°F as far south as northern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and much of New England is likely to remain below zero all day.
A quick thaw on the way—but not much of one
A welcome push of somewhat milder air will bring 60s into Texas over the weekend, and perhaps provide a day of readings above 32°F from Illinois and Michigan to New England early next week. The relief won’t last long, though, as yet another Arctic outbreak is on tap to sweep across most of the central and eastern U.S. later next week. Residents may find themselves gazing longingly toward the U.S. Southwest, where temperatures are predicted to remain milder than average throughout the next week and beyond.
A 21st-century cold wave for the ages
The eastern two-thirds of the United States hasn’t seen a December-January cold outbreak quite like