Photographer: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Blizzard Expected to Bury Washington in Up to Two Feet of Snow

  • Confidence is high mid-Atlantic will take the brunt of storm
  • Prediction for New York, Boston less certain, forecasters say

A Friday blizzard is expected to dump 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) of snow on Washington, as lesser amounts are forecast for New York City and winter storm watches extend along the U.S. East Coast.

A blizzard watch goes into effect Friday afternoon into Saturday for parts of Virginia and Maryland, including Washington and Baltimore, the National Weather Service said. High winds and heavy snow could make travel difficult and create life-threatening conditions.

“One to two feet is probably a good bet at this point, with locally higher amounts,” said Rick Otto, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “The locations of Boston and New York are kind of in the iffy section of the snowfall.”

The approaching winter storm helped boost natural gas prices, with futures for February delivery rising 1.3 percent, or 2.7 cents, to settle at $2.118 on Wednesday.

A blizzard would eliminate a snow drought that has plagued many of the East Coast’s largest cities this winter. New York has only received 0.4 inch, or 8.6 inches fewer than normal, the weather service said. Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore are all inches behind an average season and Boston is more than a foot below the 30-year average.

Northeast Forecasts

Otto said forecasts are harder for the area north of Philadelphia because there’s expected to be a fine line between where snow falls and it doesn’t. According to one model, for instance, Boston will get nothing, while another shows the city getting 2 to 4 inches.

In New York, the northern areas of the city will probably get less, while Staten Island could get as much as a foot, he said.

“We’re still a couple of days out, and I guarantee the models will waver and shift,” Otto said.

The mid-Atlantic region isn’t likely to escape heavy snowfall, said Gary Best, a meteorologist at Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“The worst of it is probably going to be in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore,” Best said. “The worst of the storm will be Friday night into Saturday morning there.”

Estimated Start

Best said the snow will start between 1 and 4 p.m. in Washington and Baltimore and a little later in Philadelphia.

“For the afternoon commute, it will be snowing,” Best said. “In D.C., Baltimore and even Philly, if you are working Friday, leave as early as you can.”

In New York, rain could mix with the snow and hold down accumulations, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The city will start to get snow late Friday night into Saturday morning.

If the storm’s track changes at all, then the accumulation outlooks for cities such as New York and Boston could shift significantly in either direction, he said.

Along with the snow, there will high winds along the coast that could lead to beach erosion as the storm passes out to sea, Kines said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.