New York City, Northeast May Get Storm After Christmas, Forecasters Say

New York and much of the U.S. Northeast are expected to have a dry and mild Christmas, followed by the arrival of the weather system that dumped as much as 2 feet of rain in California.

Forecasters are tracking the system, which also dropped as much as 17 feet (5.2 meters) of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The storm may reach New York Dec. 26. Forecasters aren’t sure how strong it will be by then.

“Right now there is still low confidence but the risk is certainly there for something major,” said Travis Hartman, energy weather manager at MDA EarthSat Weather in Rockville, Maryland. “With that being said, I am leaning toward less than what some of the hypes are out there for a crippling storm.”

The storm has prompted winter storm warnings and watches across Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, according to the National Weather Service. The storm pounded California for almost a week and resulted in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring a state of emergency in six counties there yesterday.

Travelers in the middle of the country may have to contend with weather problems before Christmas, while those on the East Coast will have the most trouble after the Dec. 25 holiday, said Tom Kines, senior expert meteorologist with commercial forecaster AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

Midwest Snow

Kines said storms will probably drop 3 to 6 inches of snow across the Midwest from South Dakota to West Virginia in the next two days.

“Most of this system will miss the big cities of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati,” Kines said.

In terms of heating, December has been cooler than normal in the Northeast, according to weather service heating degree days values. The value from Central Park this month has been 694, or 121 above normal.

The value, calculated by subtracting the daily average temperature from a base of 65 degrees, is designed to show energy demand, according to the weather service. The higher the value, the cooler the weather, and thus the more energy probably being used to heat homes and business.

In Boston it is 693 or 58 above normal; it is 976 in Chicago, or 190 above normal and 693 in Philadelphia or 110 above normal, according to the weather service.

Natural Gas

Natural gas for January delivery fell 5.2 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $4.10 per million British thermal units after the Energy Department said U.S. stockpiles dropped 184 billion cubic feet last week to 3.368 trillion at 10:30 a.m. Gas was trading at $4.08 before the report.

As of 11 a.m., there weren’t any air traffic delays in the U.S., according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.

Computer simulations don’t agree on what the storm will do after Christmas once it reaches the U.S. East Coast, Hartman said. A model developed in Europe “has been consistently bullish for a major storm,” he said.

Two others, from Canada and the U.S., show the storm tracking farther out in the Atlantic, meaning there won’t be as much snow, Hartman said.

Now that the storm is moving over land, the models should be more accurate, said Charlie Foley, a weather service forecaster in Taunton, Massachusetts.

“They can get denser and better data over land than when it was out over the Pacific,” Foley said. “It still stands that it is unclear; it has the potential to be a big hit or a big miss.”

Tomorrow and Christmas Day will be calm and dry in New York and much of the Northeast, said Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.

Pollina said the storm needs to be watched.

“Stay tuned for updates,” Pollina said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at Bsullivan10@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net.

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