Winter's `Last Hurrah' Threatens Snow From Washington to Boston

  • With spring also arriving, snow forecast is not a sure thing
  • Warmth will return after this latest round of unpleasantness

As hard as it is to contemplate after last week’s bout of almost summery weather, there’s a pretty good chance snow will fall by the inch along the East Coast, including New York, this weekend.

Before anyone pulls the skis back out of the closet, there are a few things to consider: In late March, it’s pretty hard for snow to stick anywhere vital, or stay around for long.

“Anything that does fall will be short-lived; it is hard to keep a snowpack at this time of year, especially as you go south into the mid-Atlantic,” said Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. “It will be gone pretty quick.”

Still, flakes will fall as a low-pressure system makes its way up the coast Sunday into Monday. For the big cities along the East Coat, Boston will probably get the worst of it, with as much as 7 inches (18 centimeters) possible, the National Weather Service said. New York and Philadelphia will most likely get about 4 inches and Washington might get an inch.

“There’s nothing gigantic for a snow amount, but anytime you get snow at the end of the winter season, people start freaking out,” Oravec said Friday.

The good news is that with spring also starting Sunday, most of the snow will probably just pile up on grassy surfaces, with little of it sticking to pavement, especially if it falls during the day, Oravec said.

Jet Stream

This spring storm is happening because there’s an pulse of energy aloft in the western U.S., hitching a ride with the polar branch of the jet stream. Meanwhile, a lackluster low-pressure system is skittering across Texas on the jet stream’s tropical branch.

“The components of either one of these is going to help form the low-pressure system” that’s going to threaten snow for the East Coast, said Brian Hurley, also a senior branch forecaster at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. The one to the north will be the primary troublemaker.

As the low develops along the U.S. Gulf Coast, it will bring rain from Louisiana to northern Florida. That will track up the Atlantic coast, pulling in cold air from the north as it goes and potentially delivering snow, Hurley said.

The rain along the Gulf Coast probably won’t make flooding worse in Louisiana, Thomas Graziano, acting director of the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. Parts of that state and Texas flooded after torrential rain last week.

Cold Disappearing

But back to the snow. Hurley said if this kind of storm showed up a few weeks ago, it probably would have been a bigger threat. There isn’t a lot of cold air left in the East.

So far in March, eight days had highs of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) or more in New York, according to the National Weather Service. Philadelphia, Trenton and Baltimore have all reached 80 or higher. Boston, which was still buried in snow at this time last year, saw 77 last week.

Both the contiguous U.S. and the world had their warmest Februarys on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Winter itself, defined by meteorologists as running from Dec. 1 through February, also set records for warmth.

After the snow flies, temperatures will start to rise again as the work week begins, Oravec said. “We will still be coolish across the Northeast into Tuesday and then we start warming south to north on Wednesday,” Oravec said.

“This very well could be winter’s last hurrah,” Hurley said.

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