The third major storm this week is bound to instigate another round of travel woes as millions of Americans return home from the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend.
The powerful storm has the potential to bring heavy snow to a sprawling region from the Intermountain West through the Plains all the way to the Great Lakes and New England.
The storm, which already has prompted winter storm and blizzard warnings from Arizona to Wisconsin, will blast east over the next several days, setting the stage for the Northeast’s first major snowstorm of the season.
The storm is developing over the Desert Southwest, energized by the same dip in the jet stream that spawned the Pacific “bomb cyclone” earlier this week.
Accompanying the snow are strong winds, likely to exceed 50 or 60 mph in some areas.
Minneapolis will be right along the southern edge of where substantial snow is possible. Just a county or two north of Minneapolis, accumulations will reach warning levels, closing in on 6 inches or more. But in the Twin Cities, the current forecast calls for 3 to 5 inches. A winter storm watch is in effect.
Uncertainty lies within the temperatures; Minneapolis, Minnesota is predicted to be on the edge of the snow/mixed precipitation line with marginal temperatures, so any fluctuations could have a bearing on how much snow is realized.
In Wisconsin, most of the snow looks to fall north of Appleton and Green Bay. Milwaukee is anticipated to begin as mixed precipitation or sleet Saturday, quickly transitioning to a cold rain that will last off and on through Sunday night. Madison is expected to see a wintry mix late Friday turn to rain on Saturday before perhaps ending as snow on Sunday.
In Chicago, it’s all rain. One wave of rain will make for a gray morning Saturday, but a steadier period of shower activity will come Saturday night into the early morning hours Sunday. There may also be another round of moderate rain during Sunday evening.
As the snow clips northern Michigan, 6 to 12 inches is possible Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon.
This time around, the Upper Midwest will not be prone to particularly strong winds with this system. In fact, winds from over the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley are looking at gusts predominantly below 25 or 30 mph. That’s because the system will be in a slightly weakened state then, reorganizing and reshuffling.
That restructuring will transfer the storm’s energy off the coast of Delmarva late Sunday night, spawning a new storm center as a nor’easter brews off the New Jersey coastline. It will intensify as it rushes northeastward, passing southeast of Nantucket as it throws precipitation and wind back towards New England.
Bands of snow are possible from the Tug Hull Plateau in New York state to the Hudson Valley by late Sunday, with some six inch-plus totals possible when all is said and done on Monday.
But the real action will be focused in Southern New England, where precipitation moves in Sunday evening. Sunday night and much of Monday will then feature moderate to at times heavy snow.
Two zones of locally heavy snow are possible. One will stretch from east of the Berkshires from northern Massachusetts down to west central Connecticut.
The other zone of heavy snow depends on where the storm’s coastal front sets up, which will determine the whereabouts of the rain/snow line. A strip of heavier snow is typical west of that boundary.
The Boston to Providence corridor may end up along this dividing line, with 5 to 8 inches possible west of there and localized 10-inch amounts. That may end up being in the Blackstone Valley.
To the east, where rain and sleet may mix with snow, 3 to 5 inches are possible, except 1 to 4 in eastern Bristol and Plymouth counties. The Cape and Islands may not see much more than a few flakes.
These snowfall projections may change some as this forecast comes into better focus over the weekend.
Farther south, the forecast is even tougher. New York City may see a snow sandwich — a touch of snow at the start Sunday night and finish Monday night, with rain in between. A few inches are possible farther east on Long Island.
In Philadelphia, it’s looking like mostly rain although snow showers could develop on the storm’s backside Sunday night and Monday, especially in its colder areas to the north and west.
And in Washington and Baltimore, rain will span from late Saturday afternoon through Sunday, with perhaps some rain and/or snow showers on the storm’s backside on Monday.