Washington and Baltimore have a good chance of getting more than a foot of snow. Philadelphia could receive almost as much, and New York may see 6 to 12 inches, Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said Jan. 21. High winds along the coast raise the chances for blizzard conditions.
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“Use this advance notice to plan ahead,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin. “Adjust travel plans and planned activities. Stock up on necessities. Prepare for the possibility of power outages during snowy and cold conditions.”
Government offices are closing at noon Jan. 22 and the city's rapid transit rail is shutting at 11 p.m. until Monday morning. The snow should begin falling in Washington before sundown, with heavier amounts arriving overnight, Burke said. In New York, the heaviest accumulations will come on Jan. 23, which is when Boston may get snow as well. The storm also has touched off winter storm warnings and advisories from Arkansas and Kansas to Pennsylvania.
The storm will affect industries such as airlines and power companies and tax emergency crews. By midafternoon on Jan. 21, 559 Jan. 22 flights were canceled in the U.S., according to Houston-based FlightAware. Duke Energy had mobilized 3,200 workers in North Carolina and South Carolina to fight power outages, according to a company statement.
“Boston is one of the more difficult locations to forecast for this storm,” Burke said. “Any kind of shift of the track of the storm could bring heavier amounts.”
The most likely forecast for Boston, still reeling from memories of the more than 9 feet of snow it received last year, is for 3 inches in the city with as much as 7 inches across southeastern Massachusetts, according to the weather service.
The trend in forecast models has been for the storm to stay farther south, and if that continues, Boston could be spared, said Steve LaVoie, a meteorologist at Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
While the public focus is often on snow in the big East Coast cities, the storm is already having an impact, with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana. Ice storms are forecast in Kentucky and North Carolina and high winds and flooding are possible along the Eastern Seaboard from Delaware to New York.
Areas of Virginia and Maryland might get upward of 2 feet of snow. The storm will be slow-moving in much of the region.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said trucks carrying rock salt will begin hitting the streets Jan. 22 with crews operating 12-hour shifts through the weekend.
Winter weather already is affecting Washington. Schools in the city opened two hours later than usual Jan. 21 because of frigid temperatures, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s website. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and asked residents to stay off roads during the storm.
“This is going to be a very significant snow storm for Washington,” LaVoie said. “We are talking about measuring this in feet for Washington instead of inches.”
The storm may take its time moving through the region.
“It is a pretty lengthy storm; there may be a 36-hour window of moderate to heavy snow,” Burke said.
Some airlines have begun waiving change fees for people wanting to avoid airports this weekend.