Late Winter Storm Aims at Chicago; East Coast Threatened

A late winter storm that may bring heavy snow to Chicago tomorrow is expected to strike the East Coast later this week, potentially tying up air traffic and causing power failures.

Odds are better than 70 percent that Chicago will get at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow from the storm, according to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“It will start overnight tonight and mostly affect both rush hours, morning and evening,” said Amy Seeley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Romeoville, Illinois. “A lot of the city could see 8 to 10 inches.”

The storm, the third to strike the Great Plains and Midwest in three weeks, will cross the northern Plains, bypassing some of the nation’s hardest-hit drought areas, then curve below the Great Lakes. Winter storm advisories, warnings and watches stretch from Montana to Ohio and have been posted in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, the weather service said.

Winter storm and snow warnings also were issued for southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, including Winnipeg, according to Environment Canada. Winnipeg may get about 6 inches of snow before it stops falling sometime tomorrow, the weather agency said.

After Chicago

The challenge for forecasters is figuring out what the storm will do it as moves east across the Ohio Valley, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The track will determine how much snow falls on eastern cities from Washington to New York and possibly Boston.

If the storm takes a more southerly track to the Atlantic, Washington and Baltimore may get the worst of the snow, Kines said. It might start raining in those cities late tomorrow and change over to snow on March 6.

At least 5 inches of snow is possible across northern Virginia and into Maryland, including Washington and Baltimore, according to the weather service. There’s a greater than 50 percent chance at least 4 inches of snow will fall in that area, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center said.

A track farther north means Philadelphia and New York City may see significant snow, Kines said. If the storm were then to hug the East Coast, Boston and northern New England may be affected.

NYC Wind

While New York City will most likely get rain, it may be buffeted by winds as strong as 25 miles per hour through much of March 6 into March 7, said Rob St. Pierre, a meteorologist with Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Kines said the storm will affect midweek air travel along the East Coast.

“For anybody traveling Wednesday and Thursday, there is no doubt there are going to be problems in the East,” Kines said.

As of 1:45 p.m. New York time, 200 flights had been canceled around the U.S., with 99 of them into and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service. Light snow is falling there and the cities may receive more than a foot in the next 36 hours, according to the weather service.

Almost 300 flights have been scrubbed for tomorrow, 279 of them at Chicago’s O’Hare International, FlightAware said.

The storm’s heavy, wet snow may also trigger power failures across the mid-Atlantic states, including the Baltimore-Washington area, the day after tomorrow, according to Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

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