Major Winter Storm to Bring Heavy Snow to the Northeast

Published in 14 December, 2020

At a Glance

  • A major winter storm is expected to strike the East Coast Wednesday into Thursday.

  • Heavy snow is expected near or just north and west of portions of the Interstate 95 corridor.

  • Strong winds and coastal flooding will also affect parts of the East Coast.

A major nor’easter is likely to bring heavy snow, strong winds and some coastal flooding to parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Wednesday. Significant winter storm impacts are not only possible in the interior Northeast, but also along parts of the Interstate 95 corridor from Boston to New York and Philadelphia.

(MORE: Northeast High-Impact Snowstorm Drought Enters Third Winter)

The upper-level energy that will eventually spawn this East Coast storm is located in the West right now, where it will spread generally light snowfall through the Rockies on Monday.

Once that energy reaches the eastern states on Wednesday, it will help generate and intensify an area of low pressure near or off the East Coast. At the same time, strong high pressure in eastern Canada is expected to supply fresh, cold air into the Northeast.

Assuming all of those ingredients come together as shown below, we could be looking at one of the more impactful Northeast winter storms in the last couple of years.

The National Weather Service has posted winter storm watches ahead of this storm in parts of the central Appalachians and Northeast, including Philadelphia, Baltimore and areas west of Washington, D.C. Additional winter storm watches will likely be issued soon in other Northeast cities.
Winter Alerts

(From the National Weather Service.)

As is typically the case a few days in advance of a storm, there are still some uncertain factors in this forecast. This includes the exact track of the surface low and how strong and persistent the cold air will be along its path.

Here’s what we know about the timing and expected snow totals right now. Given the uncertainty mentioned above, however, expect changes to your forecast over the next couple of days.

Forecast Timing

Before this midweek storm develops, there will be a minor weather system that brings light snow and rain to parts of the Northeast on Monday. For more details on that system, click here.

Tuesday-Tuesday Night

The upper-level energy that will trigger the development of the East Coast storm will move from the Plains into the South and Ohio Valley on Tuesday and Tuesday night.

Mainly light snow is expected during this time from the Central and Southern Plains into the Ozarks and Ohio Valley.

Some mixed precipitation may occur east of the central and southern Appalachians as early as Tuesday night as cold air funnels southward. This may lead to a period of freezing rain, sleet or snow for western North Carolina and southwest Virginia.

Tuesday Night’s Forecast

Wednesday-Wednesday Night

Wednesday and Wednesday night is the time period when most areas will receive the peak impacts from this East Coast storm.

Significant heavy snow and strong winds will be likely during this time in portions of the central Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and Northeast. This could include areas near or just north and west of the Interstate 95 corridor from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

A mix of sleet and freezing rain could occur as far south as the western Piedmont of North Carolina and western Virginia.

Wednesday’s Forecast

The potential for heavier snow in the major East Coast cities will largely depend on the exact track of the storm.

Areas from central and southern New Jersey to near Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. could mix with rain or sleet at times, which would reduce potential snowfall accumulations. Heavy snow totals are more confident just west of this portion of the Interstate 95 corridor.

Locations from near New York City into southern New England will likely remain cold enough to see all snow. However, a farther offshore track of the storm could reduce the snowfall potential in southern New England.

Regardless of the uncertainty in the forecast details, significant travel disruption is likely in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and central Appalachians. The combination of heavy snow and gusty winds could also contribute to power outages in parts of those regions.

(MORE: 6 Things to Know About Your Snow Forecast)

This storm might produce some coastal flooding from the mid-Atlantic into New England, but details are uncertain.

Wednesday Night’s Outlook


The storm will begin to pull away from the Northeast on Thursday morning.

Snowfall and gusty winds could linger through at least a part of Thursday in the Northeast. Most locations should see improving weather conditions by the second half of Thursday.

Some coastal flooding might linger in parts of southern New England.

Thursday’s Forecast

How Much Snow?

An expansive area of the central Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and Northeast should see at least some accumulating snowfall from this storm.

Storm totals of 6 inches or more could be widespread in parts of those regions, with some areas picking up more than a foot. These heavier totals are most likely from parts of southern New England to southeast New York, including New York City, southward to locations just west of Interstate 95 in the mid-Atlantic.

As mentioned earlier, the snowfall forecast is less certain along the immediate Interstate 95 corridor from Philadelphia to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., since precipitation could be in the form of rain or sleet at times in these areas.

At this time, don’t focus on the exact snowfall locations or totals, but rather take away from the graphic below that a higher-end snowfall may occur just inland from the coastal Northeast, including parts of the Northeast megalopolis.

Check back frequently for updates to this forecast as the key details come into focus over the next day or two.

Snowfall Potential

(While it is too far out in time to specify exact forecast snowfall totals, areas in the purple and pink contours have the highest chance at heavy snowfall. )

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