More than 50 million people could be walloped by snowfall this weekend, should a nor’easter develop over the Ohio Valley, potentially dumping as much as one to three inches per hour at times in parts of the Northeast, AccuWeather reported Tuesday.
Following an unseasonably warm December in the Northeast, the system forecasted to initially bring a wintry mix to the southern Appalachians and Ohio Valley on Thursday will have enough of the cold air it needs to create headaches for millions in the Northeast this weekend, the forecasting service said.
Although it's still early, computer models all predict a windy, strong slow-moving storm.
"There's going to be a big storm. Somebody's going to get walloped," said Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at College of DuPage outside of Chicago, which should be spared. "It does look like it's going to be a doozy."
Rich Otto, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center, said some major cities will likely see a foot or more of snow. Other meteorologists talked about 18 inches, two feet and more.
Otto said an upper-level disturbance in the air is moving from the Pacific to the Rockies to the southern plains. It should pass over Texas, move into the Ohio Valley, join with other unstable air and become a nor'easter Friday evening over the Mid Atlantic, moving up the coast on Saturday.
As the storm strengthens and moves northeastward leading into the weekend, it will take advantage of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, and snowfall rates of one to three inches per hour are possible along its track, AccuWeather reported.
"Since the storm is arriving on a southern track, impacts will include Kentucky, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Northern Virginia into D.C., then Philadelphia," said meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private WeatherBell Analytics.
The latest AccuWeather forecast map for Friday and Saturday showed the strongest potential for snowstorm activity along the I-81 corridor, from Roanoke, Va. to southern New York State, as well as for most of the Boston-Washington metropolis.
The amount of snow expected in coastal areas will depend on the amount of mixing rainfall, AccuWeather reported.
Strong winds will accompany the storm along the coast in the New York area, according to FOX-5, which also warned of the potential for storm surge in the region.
While many in the Washington, D.C., New York and Boston areas can expect to see noticeable snowfall activity, under current projections, little to no snow is likely to fall over upstate New York and northern New England, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
“Should the storm continue northeastward, rather than turn more to the east at the last minute, New York, Boston, Providence and Hartford would be buried in snow,” Anderson said.
Forecasters see Saturday as the worst day in the East.
However, should the storm system shift 50 to 100 miles farther to the north, the I-95 corridor could be spared the worst of the snowfall, in favor of the northern Appalachian Mountains, AccuWeather reported.
South and east of the areas expecting snowfall, a wintry mix is expected throughout much of Tennessee and western North Carolina, shifting to mainly rain approaching the coast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.