Atlantic Storm to Graze U.S. East Coast Before Canada

An Atlantic storm will probably graze the U.S. East Coast this week, dropping a few inches of snow on cities including New York before bringing its worst to Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

One to two inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) of snow may fall from Philadelphia to New York, with eastern Long Island, Boston and Cape Cod in Massachusetts getting more, the National Weather Service said. Parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick could get from 1 to 2 feet, said Frank Strait, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“At this point we are pretty confident that there is going to be a big storm not too far off the East Coast Tuesday into Wednesday, the question is are we going to see some serious impacts or be grazed?” Strait said by telephone. “The place that is going to get walloped is Nova Scotia and parts of New Brunswick.”

The storm may be one of the most intense to come up the East Coast this year and will probably cause airline cancellations in Boston and delays throughout the Northeast, Strait said. The U.S. weather service has issued a hazardous weather outlook from Virginia to Maine, while Environment Canada published special weather statements for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia predicting heavy snow and powerful winds.

The storm is “the strongest one we have seen probably so far,” Strait said. “I have been saying all day Old Man Winter is coming back in town and he’s picking a fight.”

Spring began in the Northern Hemisphere on March 20.

Boston Snow

Winter storms have cost U.S. airline passengers at least $5.3 billion in expenses and missed workdays and more than 108,600 flights have been canceled this year, according to industry data tracker MasFlight, in Bethesda, Maryland.

There is a 40 to 70 percent chance that southeastern Massachusetts could get at least 4 inches of snow. “It is too uncertain to forecast specific snow accumulations at this time,” the weather service said.

The storm is difficult to forecast because it will be made up of three separate weather systems currently spread out across the Rocky Mountains, central Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, Strait said. All three pieces are expected to come together bringing rain across the U.S. South starting March 25.

“The players in this storm are all over the map,” said Bill Goodman, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York. “Exactly how they come together is going to determine the final outcome.”

Current forecast models are taking the storm track farther to the east than first thought, so New York City may be spared the most powerful part of it, Goodman said.

New York Weather

Temperatures in New York will peak at 36 Fahrenheit (2 Celsius) today, compared with a mean of 52 Fahreheit, according to AccuWeather.

“We will still see a couple of inches of accumulation,” Goodman said by telephone.

The danger for the U.S. Northeast, particularly New England, will be if the storm tracks closer to the coastline, Strait said. By the time the storm is off Massachusetts it will be growing into possibly the most powerful coastal storm this year, he said.

Gusts will be reaching hurricane force of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or more and it is certain that Atlantic Canada will be raked by those winds, along with coastal flooding and heavy snow, he said. If that heavy snow and high winds were to hit New England there could be significant travel delays and the possibility of power outages, Strait said.

The storm may break the pattern of cold air sitting across much of the U.S., said Rob Carolan, of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“A lot of times these pattern changes are preceded by epic weather events,” Carolan said.

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