Groundhog Day storm brewing? Forecasters monitoring the situation closely

Groundhog Day storm brewing? Forecasters monitoring the situation closely

The weather pattern seems to be stuck in "weekend storm mode," and one such potential weather system could take shape and impact the eastern United States in early February, making it the third weekend in a row that the region faces a storm threat.

A storm affected the central and northeastern United States with a wide variety of wintry precipitation during the weekend of Jan. 18 and 19, and another storm has continued that trend this weekend.

Snowstorms have been hitting on a regular basis over the northern tier of the Northeast, as well as parts of the Midwest during January, but that has not been the case for the coastal mid-Atlantic, southeastern New England and the central Appalachians, where rain and mixed precipitation events have been the norm.

This far out, a wide range of possibilities is associated with the track, strength, and timing of the storm centered on the weekend of Feb. 1 and 2. However, early indications are that a sizable and potent storm is likely to form over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday and take a northeastward path.

Whether that track is west of the Appalachians, just inland of the Eastern Seaboard or just off the Atlantic coast will make a huge difference in precipitation types expected in the eastern third of the nation, in particular across the Northeast.


"The track of the storm is highly prone to shift in the coming days, so deep discussion of the forecast is a moot point this far out," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "This is merely a heads-up on a storm that has the potential to disrupt travel by way of heavy rain, heavy snow, severe thunderstorms or strong winds or perhaps all of these weather extremes."

"It does appear that the jet stream will become greatly amplified later this week and next weekend over the eastern half of North America, which suggests a major storm somewhere in the eastern part of the U.S.," Anderson stated.

If the storm treks west of the Appalachians, then it would bring rain to much of the East Coast and mountains. Compare that to a storm that would parallel the coast and bring heavy snow to the mountains and the potential for the same in the Interstate-95 corridor of the Northeast.

"Until we get to the final day of January, a fairly benign pattern is in store for much of the U.S. and Canada with the exception of the Northwest and the Southeast corners," Anderson said.

"The greatest temperature departures from average on the warm side will be across southern Canada and the northern U.S. Cloud cover will tend to hold temperatures back in parts of the South," he added.

The period from February through March can be very stormy as building warmth from the strengthening sun and warming air in the southern parts of the U.S. can meet up with lingering cold across the northern part of the nation. Based on average, it is generally easier for snow to fall over the next six weeks when compared to the prior 12 weeks as the upper levels of the atmosphere are quite cold and water temperatures are generally at their lowest point of the year.

However, the key to whether or not a big storm comes about and dumps heavy snow on the thus-far snow-deprived I-95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic and central Appalachians will depend on if an atmospheric traffic jam develops over the central Atlantic and Greenland.

Such a road block might allow a storm to strengthen and slow down -- a factor that has been missing so far this winter. And yet meteorologists say a lack of cold air in the northern states this coming week poses a strong argument against heavy snow in general, let alone along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Even without blocking in place, a storm could still get strong enough for heavy rain, strong winds and flooding along the coast and perhaps a rain and higher-elevation snow event for the central and northern Appalachians assuming a track near the coast.

A man watches the surf as heavy seas in Wintrhrop, Mass., Saturday, March 3, 2018, a day after a nor'easter pounded the Atlantic coast with hurricane-force winds and sideways rain and snow, flooding streets, grounding flights, stopping trains and leaving 1.6 million customers without power from North Carolina to Maine. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The same weather pattern that could generate a significant storm along the Atlantic coast during the first weekend of February might also allow benign and mild weather to hold over the Plains, including through the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 3.

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