A far-reaching winter storm remains on track to target the eastern-third of the United States at midweek with disruptive snow, icy mix, rain and severe thunderstorms.
"[The storm Wednesday and Thursday] has the potential to be disruptive to travel because it will cover a large area with a wide variety of weather," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.
After being preceded by a weaker system that will spread rain and thunderstorms across the South to start the new week, the impending storm will take shape across the southern Plains on Tuesday.
Latest indications then take the storm west of the Appalachian Mountains Wednesday into Thursday. Such a track will lead to soaking rain, severe thunderstorms and gusty winds along the Atlantic Seaboard, snow or rain changing to snow in the Midwest and an icy mix for a time in the interior Northeast.
Jump to: Drenching rain, gusty winds to target Northeast's I-95 corridor | Storm to start as icy mix in interior Northeast | Disruptive snow to unfold in the Midwest | Severe storms may erupt across southeastern US this week
"With the storm tracking so far to the west, a southerly flow will bring plenty of warm air into the East," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson said.
That will set the stage for potentially severe thunderstorms from the Southeast northward to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore on Wednesday with the steadiest rain targeting the Northeast's I-95 corridor Wednesday night into Thursday.
"From Philadelphia to Boston, the rain may be heavy enough to cause ponding on roadways Wednesday night and may slow the Thursday morning commute," Thompson said. Airline passengers should prepare for delays.
The risk of flash flooding, however, will not be as high as during the last winter storm with the ground not as cold and more capable of absorbing the rain's runoff.
Strong, gusty winds will also develop along the Northeast coast, heightening the risk of sporadic power outages and flight delays. Minor coastal flooding may also develop at high tide.
Even with a track west of the Appalachian Mountains, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Baker is still concerned for a period of wintry weather in the interior Northeast at its onset.
"As moisture first moves into the area, parts of the interior of Pennsylvania and New York will still have temperatures near or below freezing near the ground," Baker said. "This may allow for some light freezing drizzle or freezing rain to develop across parts of central Pennsylvania into the southern tier of New York Tuesday night into early Wednesday."
The icy mix, with more snow on its front end, will spread to northern New England on Wednesday.
Given the projected path of the storm, the period of wintry weather in the interior Northeast should not be as prolonged as during the last winter storm and road temperatures should follow close behind when the air temperature rises above freezing.
If the storm travels farther east than latest indications, the period of snow and ice could be more prolonged.
Even if the wintry weather is brief, motorists should not let their guard down for slick travel until the changeover to rain occurs. Roads may once again turn slippery on Friday in the northern Appalachians as colder air rushes in on the backside of the storm and snow showers develop.
Colder air feeding into the western side of the storm will allow snow to fall or soaking rain to change to snow from the Ohio Valley to the Great Lakes Wednesday into Thursday.
Cities facing snow and slippery travel during all or a part of the storm include Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The western extent of the snow may be close to St. Louis.
"Snow will start across Illinois and Michigan late Tuesday into early Wednesday with rain and snow across the western Ohio Valley gradually changing to all snow by Wednesday night," AccuWeather Meteorologist Becky Elliott said. The changeover from rain to snow should spread to the spine of the Appalachian Mountains by Thursday.
"The Thursday morning commute will be severe and residents should use extreme caution if heading out," Elliott said.
"The bulk of the snow looks to fall in a swath from the northern Ohio Valley through Michigan into southern Ontario and central Quebec," Elliott said.
Within this zone, snow totals can top six inches. The exact track of the storm will determine whether the heaviest snow band is focused more around Lake Michigan or toward lakes Huron and Erie.
"Moderate to heavy snowfall will disrupt travel with roadways become snow-covered," Elliott said.
In additional to travel hazards, enough snow can fall to lead to school closures, disruptions to daily routines and flight delays or cancellations. Gusty winds can blow the snow around, further reducing visibility for motorists.
Where the storm starts as rain, roads will initially remain wet after the changeover to snow due to the warmth stored up in the ground from the recent warm spell. The snow will gradually stick and wet spots will turn icy as colder air arrives.
Even west of where the storm's snow falls, all of the Midwest will be chilled by the invading cold and brisk winds later this week. However, an even harsher blast of arctic air may then sweep from the Midwest to Northeast next weekend or early in the following week.