An unwelcome nor'easter coming just days after the start of spring began its trek up the Interstate 95 corridor Tuesday, dropping snow flurries on Washington, D.C., as it made its way toward Cape Cod, which was expected to see the brunt of the storm.
After one of the snowiest, coldest winters in years, many residents were dismayed to hear that another big storm was coming, especially this close to April. But the National Weather Service said the timing wasn't out of the ordinary.
"It is not unusual to have storms this late in the year," weather service spokesman Bill Simpson said, adding that April has seen quite a few big storms in the past. The Boston area got more than 2 inches of snow in an April storm last year and was blanketed with almost 2 feet the same month in 1997.
"The snowfall can go early or stay late," said William Babcock of the weather service. "When you are in New England, it all depends on the year."
A powerful low-pressure system was expected to develop off the Mid-Atlantic coast Tuesday night. Where and how much snow falls will depend on the storm's track, according to the weather service. But low temperatures and windy conditions were expected to cover the Mid-Atlantic states and New England as the storm trekked from the Blacksburg area of southwestern Virginia to Maine.
More than half a foot of snow was forecast to hit southeastern Massachusetts on Tuesday evening into Wednesday, and parts of coastal Maine could also see snow. The weather service also called for the potential of minor coastal flooding and some beach erosion along the Massachusetts coast.
Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are expected to be hit the hardest, starting Tuesday evening and lasting until Wednesday morning, Simpson said. The heaviest snowfall is expected early Wednesday, and that could make it a rough commute into work, Simpson said. Snowfall totals there could range from 8 to 10 inches.
Boston and northern Massachusetts could get 2 to 4 inches of snow, and coastal New Hampshire may see 1 to 2 inches. Areas west of Boston to Worcester are forecast to get about an inch and far eastern Maine could get 8 to 14 inches.
Coastal Rhode Island, Connecticut and eastern Long Island in New York are expected to get 2 to 5 inches, while New York City is expected to get less than an inch. Portions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania could get 2 to 4 inches of snow.
By early Tuesday afternoon, 1.5 inches of snow had fallen at Dulles International Airport, bumping the total for the season to 50.5 inches, said meteorologist Amy Bettwy in Sterling, Va. That bests the 50.1 inches that fell during the 2002 season, making this the unofficial third snowiest winter in the Washington area, Bettwy said. The ranking will become official after midnight.
The precipitation in Washington and northern Virginia was expected to change over to rain by late evening.
The Northeast has had below-normal temperatures this spring. And, with Easter less than a month away, many people are ready to say so long to snow and frigid temperatures.
"I've had enough. It's been a tough winter," said 65-year-old Robert Larkin, of Winchester, Mass., as he walked through Boston's Financial District on Monday.
Businesses on Cape Cod have had it particularly rough after weathering a number of snowstorms this year.
"Business has been down almost 10 percent," said Bill Zimmer, owner of multiple restaurants and hotels on the Cape. "Enough is enough."