AccuWeather forecasters break down snow chances for DC to NYC this week

As storms brew over the southern Plains and head eastward this week, colder air will make its way into the Northeast. AccuWeather meteorologists believe that a swath of snow and ice may extend along a 1,500-mile-long swath from Texas to the mid-Atlantic coast, and might even end the snow drought for some big cities along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Arctic air will dive into the north-central region in the wake of an Alberta clipper storm through Sunday. While that fast-moving system will bring accumulating snow to the Great Lakes and the northern tier of the Northeast on Sunday, it will fail at bringing snow to the I-95 zone. However, the expansion of the colder air in the East will pave the way for an opportunity for wintry precipitation along part of the mid-Atlantic coast as the week progresses.

"There will be multiple storms scooting from the southern Plains to the East Coast, and each one will have wintry precipitation to the north of its track this week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said. "While there could be some sneaky attempt at a bit of snow or a wintry mix in parts of Virginia on Wednesday, the best chance of more substantial and far-reaching wintry precipitation in the mid-Atlantic zone is likely to be on Thursday."

Lundberg added that snow or ice prior to Wednesday night is more of a longshot in Virginia as the air may not yet be cold enough for that.


Forecasters still have to iron out the exact details about how far to the north or south the zones of snow and ice will be with each storm. However, at this early stage, it appears the best chance of snow and/or mixed wintry precipitation will be from parts of West Virginia and North Carolina to Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey.

"Most urban areas along and to the east of the I-95 corridor from Virginia to New York City have not received any measurable snow so far this winter," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger said. "The chance of that will increase this week with the storm train, and it appears that areas from Richmond, Virginia, to perhaps Philadelphia may have a shot at finally getting that snow or ice."

Several big cities in the region have received occasional snowflakes so far this season, but nothing in the way of measurable snowfall, which is defined by an accumulation of 0.1 of an inch of snow. That's a feat that forecasters say is challenging records for the latest date on record for measurable snow.

For example, in New York's Central Park, there have been 326 consecutive days without snow of 0.1 of an inch or greater. Should the snowfall drought continue through the next couple of weeks, then the record of 332 consecutive days without a snowfall will be broken. One record that will definitely be toppled in New York City is the latest date ever in a season for the first measurable snow. The record to beat is Sunday, Jan. 29, when 1.8 inches of snow fell back in 1973. During the entire winter of 1972-73, only 2.8 inches of snow fell on New York City.

The last time there was measurable snow in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., was on March 12 when 0.4 and 0.9 of an inch of snow fell, respectively. During the winter of 1972-73, there was no measurable snow in Philadelphia. That same winter, only 0.1 of an inch of snow fell on Washington, D.C. The nation's capital repeated the mere 0.1 of an inch of snow in the winter of 1997-98.

The northern edge of the snow and the southern edge of the wintry mix is far from set in stone for this week. Depending on the strength of one or more storms in the train, the snow and mix zones could shift farther to the north or south over time. Snow, rain or an icy mix all remain possible for the cities at this time.

"The cold air to the north may be so dry during the pattern that it holds the storm track well to the south this week, therefore sparing New York City of seeing that first measurable snow, just days after breaking the late-start record," Deger said.

It is possible that a trailing storm jogs far enough to the north at the last minute next weekend [Feb. 4-5] to give New York City a second chance of snow and could bring another round of snow to some areas farther south in the mid-Atlantic and in southern New England, Lundberg added. By then, it will be cold enough for snow, but another limiting factor, a lack of moisture, looks more and more likely to be in place.

In New York City, high temperatures will trend down from the mid-40s to near 50 this weekend to the 20s Fahrenheit by next weekend, when the core of the cold air settles in.

AccuWeather forecasters say the window for winter weather will be a relatively short one, and regardless of whether snow materializes, the major cities are certainly pacing behind normal for the season and have a lot of ground to make up to return to normal levels.

New York City averages close to 30 inches of snow during the winter season with typically about 10 inches falling during the month of February. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., averages 5 inches of snow during the month of February and just under 14 inches of snow during the winter season.

"Data suggest that a more west-to-east jet stream pattern will set up during the second week of February," Lundberg said.

"That setup will cause cold air to retreat northward, and temperatures in some locations of the East could rise to levels higher than some days in early January and make it more difficult for snow to fall," Lundberg explained.

AccuWeather's long-range team has an updated look for the coming weeks, ahead of Puxatawney Phil's prediction on Feb. 2. More opportunities for cold and snowy weather may arise later this winter, according to the team led by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

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