Weather and Natural Disasters

NOAA explains what to expect from winter storm

East Coast braces for blizzard
East Coast braces for blizzard
Blizzard warning to delay travel along East Coast
Blizzard warning to delay travel along East Coast
Blizzard watch for Washington, DC
Blizzard watch for Washington, DC

The severe winter storm that forecasters warned about for days is already dumping snow on the southern United States. And there's more to come.

Nine inches of snow have fallen in Waynesville, North Carolina, in the mountains west of Asheville; up to seven inches have hit parts of Virginia, and between four and eight inches have landed in parts of Arkansas, according to a recent update from the National Weather Service.

As the storm begins to move northward, storm snowfall from Eastern Kentucky up to New Jersey could total 1-2 feet, with more falling along the Appalachian Mountains and the mid-Atlantic, including Washington and Baltimore.

More than 50 million people could be affected by the "potentially paralyzing storm," National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said on a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

In their update Friday morning, NWS meteorologists said "strong winds will combine with heavy snow to produce life-threatening blizzard conditions across portions of the mid-Atlantic Friday night and Saturday."

Certain regions will see different local effects. Up to half an inch of ice may accumulate in the inland Carolinas, and meteorologists warn of high storm surges in coastal areas.

Governments in Washington, Virginia and Maryland have declared states of emergency in preparation for the storm, which could dump near-record amounts of snow in some regions, and may bring high winds and flooding along the coast.

As of Thursday morning, the National Weather Service had a winter storm watch in effect for a vast region "stretching from the Tennessee Valley into the interior Carolinas and up into the Central Appalachians/mid-Atlantic region."

"The heaviest snow should start falling in the mid-Atlantic" region as early as Friday afternoon, and it will "steadily progress" northward toward New York City through Saturday.

Employee Donald Mills wheels out bags of sand for a customer at Strosniders Hardware store in Silver Spring, Md., Jan. 21, 2016.
Gary Cameron | Reuters

"We expect the wind to be very strong with this storm system," Uccellini said, and forecasts anticipate coastal flooding in many areas, including "in the Delaware Bay area, all the way up the New Jersey Coast to Long Island and New York City."

He urged people to pay close attention to local forecasts, especially in flood-prone regions.

Blizzard watches issued earlier have been upgraded to blizzard warnings for the Washington area, and blizzard watches are in effect for the New York City region. Wind speeds in the New York area could be between 25 mph and 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.

Blizzard watches extended up I-95 to Philadelphia and NYC. #Winterstorm watches, warnings OH Valley to mid Atlantic

Uccellini said the forecasting tools used by the major weather agencies in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Canada have all shown an unusual degree of consistency since they began forecasting the storm seven days ago. That has given meteorologists a high degree of confidence in the current forecast.

"Could something go wrong between now and tomorrow night? Sure," he said. But Uccellini added the remarkable consistency across models renders that possibility far less likely.

The National Weather Service's New York office said 8-12 inches of snow could fall across Long Island, New York City and Northeast New Jersey, and 4-8 inches along Southern Connecticut and the lower Hudson Valley.

Washington, Baltimore, Virginia and West Virginia all stand to be "measuring snow in feet," and there is likely to be "significant icing" further south from there, according to the National Weather Service.

Two feet of snow in D.C. would be close to the record of 28 inches set in 1922, according to NBC News.

Prior to the storm, snow across most of the East Coast had been relatively light, as the National Weather Service noted in a tweet Jan. 7.

Below normal snowfall so far this winter across the East. Fairly large snowfall deficits near Lakes Erie & Ontario