Another East Coast Holiday Travel Mess? Dec 15, 2014

Here we (maybe) go again.

Less than a month after a Nor’easter delivered a nasty mix of rain and snow to the busy I-95 corridor at the worst possible time, another poorly-timed system could be poised to strike the East Coast’s big cities on the weekend before Christmas.

Here’s what we know at this point – and as always, you must note that long-range forecasts such as these are very, very tricky – a low pressure center moving through the South *could* spin up on Friday, moving into the waters off the Delmarva peninsula on Saturday, potentially bringing a wintry mess to the East Coast. There are a lot of question marks about this system, but here’s a look at what we might be staring at come Saturday and Sunday:

Possible timing and impacts:

Washington, D.C.: Saturday – a mix of rain and snow. Right now, it looks more rain than snow. Areas north and west of the city will be in line for a mixture of rain and snow. Possible strong winds keep in mind wind often equals big flight delays).

Philadelphia: Saturday night/Sunday morning – a mix of rain and snow, but the potential here is greater than in D.C. for more wintry precipitation. Possible strong winds.

New York: Saturday night/Sunday – a possible rain to snow changeover, with the potential for accumulating snow. A more northern solution (as favored by the lead computer model, the ECMWF) will dictate how much precipitation NYC could see. Possible strong winds.

Boston: Sunday – On the northern fringe of any precipitation, but possible. Looks likeliest for all snow here, but also the lightest precipitation amounts. Possible wind, but less likely than New York, Philadelphia or Washington.

The nerdy explanation (but seriously, here’s where we’re coming from):

The ECMWF (European) model is spearheading the East Coast’s winter weather solution, although notably it has wavered somewhat in Monday’s runs. The reason why there may be *some* degree of limited confidence in this forecast is the ECMWF has been sharp so far this winter (technically late fall) in similar events. However, it’s worth noting that on Monday the ‘Euro’ drove this system considerably more out to sea, but it also tracked the system on a bit more of a track that hugs the East Coast – meaning Boston and New York *may* see some impacts as well.

The GFS (American) model takes the bulk of the energy further south and out to sea (and also shows a considerably weaker system), leaving the I-95 corridor mostly spared. But the GFS has performed poorly in other similar recent long-range scenarios, with an early general bias to drive these types of storms out to sea. The GFS can’t be discounted, particularly with the ECMWF showing some signs of wavering on Monday, but if recent history is any indicator, it’s that this model will switch back and bring the precipitation back towards the East Coast. It did precisely this with the pre-Thanksgiving storm.

At this point, it’s simply something to keep an eye on. With one of the busiest travel weekends of the year looming, we figured it’d be a good idea to at least turn your attention towards this potentially high-impact event. There’s a ton of certainty on this thing, but rest assured, we here at WeatherNation are watching and dissecting each model run in extreme nerd fashion.

Keep you posted.

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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