Dynamic storm to drop heavy snow, unleash powerful winds across eastern US

Alex Sosnowski

The atmospheric ingredients are coming together for a dynamic storm to produce some of the highest snowfall amounts of the season so far in parts of the midwestern United States this week.

The multi-faceted storm, which has been slowly organizing since early last week, is expected to bring snow to parts of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes and western slopes of the Appalachians. The same system is also forecast to trigger rounds of severe weather and flooding rain in the South.

AccuWeather forecasters caution that this has the potential to be a very disruptive and debilitating storm for many areas of the eastern United States, but especially in parts of the Midwest, where snow will pile up and clog roads.

The storm will form near the upper Gulf Coast, where downpours and thunderstorms have been occurring then take a north-northeastward track just west of the Appalachians from Sunday to Wednesday. As it heads in this direction, it will drag colder air along with it, creating the opportunity for snow to develop.

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"Only steady forward movement of the storm may prevent a blockbuster snowfall, but snow on the order of a few inches to a foot or more is anticipated to the immediate west of the storm track as it rolls through the Northeast states," AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Brian Wimer said.

Depending upon the exact track of the storm, areas from the mountains of North Carolina all the way north to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and into the Canadian province of Ontario will receive accumulating snow even though it will start as rain in many of these locations.

Cities currently in the path of some of the heaviest snow include Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, Detroit and London, Ontario. The core of the heaviest snow could shift somewhat depending upon the exact track of the storm.

As of Nov. 29, Detroit has measured 2.1 inches of snow and Cleveland has measured 0.2 of an inch of snow so far this season. Both cities have also had a few days where a trace of snow was reported.

"The storm is shaping up to bring a 6- to 12-inch (15- to 30-centimeter) snowfall from northern and western Ohio to southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 18 inches (45 centimeters) forecast," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said.

Accumulating snow from the storm is likely to first break out in parts of southern Indiana during Sunday evening and expand eastward, southeastward and northeastward from later Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday.

The combination of falling temperatures, snow and increasing wind can create near-blizzard conditions in parts of Indiana, Ohio, southeastern Michigan and southern Ontario for a time during Monday night and Tuesday. Motorists traveling through these areas should be prepared for changing weather conditions where wet roads may become slushy or covered in snow.

Winds during and after the snowstorm can average 20-40 mph with gusts as high as 70 mph in some cases. Even though some of the snow will be wet and clingy in nature, due to a warm ground and waters in the Great Lakes, winds this strong can still cause significant blowing and drifting snow and lead to slushy and snow-covered roads and sidewalks.

Lake-effect snow will become intertwined during the latter part of the storm with narrow bands of heavy snow possible in northwestern Ohio, the western part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania. Lake-effect snow may also ramp up in western New York as the storm begins to pull away.

The combination of the snow and strong winds is likely to lead not only to major travel disruptions but also sporadic to widespread power outages. Strong onshore winds in part of the Great Lakes region will push waters toward shore and potentially cause significant lakeshore flooding. Lakeshore flooding is a major concern for the southern part of Lake Michigan and perhaps later on along the southern shoreline of Lake Erie, forecasters say.

In addition to the likelihood of lakeshore flooding from the storm due to high winds, powerful south to southeast winds will hammer the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts from later Sunday night to Monday night.

The winds from the storm, combined with high astronomical tides associated with the full moon will lead to coastal flooding from eastern North Carolina to Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, southeastern New York and southern and eastern New England. Baltimore, New York City and Providence, Rhode Island, are some of the cities that could experience high water and coastal flooding from the storm along the East Coast.

The overall size and strength of the storm will lead to a large field of strong winds overall. Airline delays are likely at the major hubs from Atlanta to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. Airline passengers should expect significant turbulence on flights they may be taking beginning from late Sunday through Tuesday.

Some of the strong winds in the East and the South can be accompanied by severe thunderstorms. There is the potential for an outbreak of severe thunderstorms spanning Sunday and Monday on the storm's southern and eastern warm flank.

Meanwhile, cold air will race southward and eastward over the Southern states early next week.

Cities such as Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Shreveport, Louisiana; Dallas and Memphis, Tennessee; are all likely to have their first freeze of the season.

Despite the rapid sweep of cold air across the South early next week, the Northeast and especially New England will be last to feel the effects of cold air from this storm. It may take until later Tuesday before cold air arrives in the coastal mid-Atlantic and early Wednesday for chilly air to arrive on southwesterly winds in coastal New England.

A storm that follows later next week could bring heavy snow from parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas to Iowa and perhaps smaller amounts of snow to a portion of the Midwest next weekend.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.