By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
AccuWeather.com reports a major snowstorm will reach from across part of the Midwest to the upper part of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England Thursday into Friday. A blizzard will evolve from the storm in parts of the Northeast.
The storm will affect more than 70 million people in the Midwest and the Northeast combined and could have a major negative impact on travel for people returning from holiday destinations, heading back to school or resuming business activities.
Not our worse, but be prepared for delays
It will be far from the worst storm to ever hit the area, but people should be prepared for flight delays and cancelations because of direct and indirect impacts from the far-reaching storm. Some roads may even close for a time.
Deicing operations, poor visibility and increasing winds will put some airlines behind schedule. Aircraft and crews may not be where they are supposed to be, even if the weather is clear.
As colder air invades the storm, snow will stick to the roads. A layer of ice may form on some highways.
The worst of the storm is likely to be Thursday night in the Northeast but will cause enough snow to make roads slippery as early as Wednesday and Thursday in some locations from the Midwest to New England.
The storm is forecast to bring a large area of 6- to 12-inch snowfall beginning near the Pennsylvania/New York state border to a large part of New Jersey and southern New England. This includes the entire metropolitan area of New York City and Long Island, northward to Albany, N.Y., and Scranton, Pa. Over a foot of snow will fall in localized areas of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut and the cities of Providence, R.I., and Boston.
2 inches of snow per hour
Within the heaviest snow area, the snow will fall at the rate of 2 inches per hour in some locations, making it difficult for plows to keep up.
A significant, but lesser snowfall is in store farther southwest in Philadelphia, and farther north in Portland, Maine, Burlington, Vt., and Pittsburgh. Around Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where a small amount of snow is forecast, a quick freeze and slippery travel is possible Thursday evening.
For many areas this will be a dry, powdery snow. However, along the mid-Atlantic coast and even southern New England coast for a brief time, a wintery mix will occur early. However, as colder air invades the storm, wet areas will freeze and the snow will become powdery.
The storm will strengthen quickly enough to kick up winds. Blowing and drifting snow will occur during the middle and last part of the storm from Pennsylvania to New England. From parts of New England to around New York City, a full-blown blizzard is forecast to evolve with strong winds, dangerous cold and low visibility.
The wind will cause waves to build along the New England and the mid-Atlantic coast. Where these winds are onshore longest, over eastern New England and along the north shore of Long Island, flooding at times of high tide is likely, along with beach erosion. The new moon on New Year's Day will contribute to higher tide levels during part of the storm.
The coldest air of the season so far will empty out of eastern Canada on gusty winds in the wake of the storm. For some locations it will bring the coldest weather in several years.
Areas from New England to much of the mid-Atlantic will be very cold Friday into Saturday, while travel conditions will improve.
According to Long Range Weather Expert Jack Boston, "If New York's Central Park fails to reach 20 degrees for a high temperature on Friday, it will be the first time this has occurred since Jan. 16, 2009."
In the South, the colder air will be accompanied by a biting wind as well.
The southern part of the two storms is set to join up in the Northeast and will bring drenching rain to parts of the South and along the lower mid-Atlantic coast for a time Wednesday night into Thursday.
The second of the two storms slated to join forces will spread a swath of accumulating snow eastward from Iowa and Illinois to Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and part of lower Michigan and southern Wisconsin Tuesday into New Year's Day.
Another storm may eye the Northeast with snow, a wintry mix and rain Sunday night and Monday as 2014 kicks winter up to a whole new level of intensity. Very cold air could also make a far-reaching appearance from the Midwest to the Northeast next week.