New York’s Snow Lovers Stuck With Rain in Storm Pinwheel

A coastal storm trapped by a larger low-pressure system will meander around the U.S. Northeast this week, sloshing rain into New York and other large cities and sending snow into the mountains.

“I like to call these things the pinwheel of misfortune,” joked Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. The storm gets captured under the upper-level low and rotates into the coast in a pinwheel effect, he said. “It cannot get out.”

As this season progresses, the chance that the East Coast will get rain and not snow fades a bit with every passing storm. While shovels and snow blowers can sit this one out along the Interstate 95 corridor from Philadelphia to New York and Boston, that may not be the case when the next one rolls around.

For air travelers trying to get out of New York and Boston today, that won’t provide much solace, as high winds from the current storm cause some delays. New York is forecast to get 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) of rain through tomorrow, with most of it falling today, said John Cristantello, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. The agency said at 3 p.m. that 2 inches had fallen in Central Park and almost 3 on parts of Long Island.

Flights Grounded

As of 3:13 p.m., 757 flights U.S. flights had been canceled with 188 of those at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport and 207 at LaGuardia Airport in New York, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracker.

New York, Philadelphia and Boston were all reporting rain, while freezing drizzle was falling in Albany, the weather service said.

The storms that have soaked the Northeast cities lately haven’t been big snow producers mainly because the Atlantic Ocean is still relatively warm and it’s early in the season, said Bruce Sullivan of the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“You have to have conditions just right” to bring major snowstorms to the coast in late November and early December, Sullivan said. By January, the Atlantic will have cooled enough that the same kind of storms will probably mean snow.

Of course, the progression from rain storms to snow storms isn’t a straight one. The patterns that have been dragging storm after storm up the East Coast can break down.

“I have seen it all happen before, it could change on a dime,” Sullivan said.

Moderating Temperatures

Carolan said the current storm string may taper off, and as that happens, temperatures may start to moderate.

This is a view shared by Tom Kines, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“At least temporarily, it will put a halt to the stormy weather,” Kines said. “In fact, I think a good chunk of the eastern part of the country will have a mild spell at least next week.”

Temperatures along the East Coast may rise 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 Celsius) above normal through the middle of next week, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center gives the region a 50 to 60 percent chance of warmer-than-normal weather through Dec. 21. The average normal reading in Central Park for Dec. 20 is about 36, according to the National Weather Service.

Not everyone is confident the storm chain will break down.

Some Disagreement

Some computer forecast models were showing the potential for another storm late next week, said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather.

Rogers said as the equatorial Pacific warms, edging near an El Nino, a stormier patter along the East Coast is probable.

“With El Nino, we should see them more often than not,” Rogers said.

Kines said there are also signs the later part of December will see some biting cold from the Great Lakes to the Northeast. In the polar regions, the store of frigid air is building.

“We will have to to wait and see if that is accompanied by storminess, but it usually is,” Kines said.

In the meantime, the weather service said the sun will probably try to shine from Boston to New York by week’s end.

Enjoy it while you can.

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