Blizzard and winter storm watches issued for the Northeast ahead of Winter Storm Stella

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By Jon Erdman, Weather.com

Winter Storm Stella is likely to bring the season’s biggest snowfall and possibly blizzard conditions to parts of the Northeast, following a stripe of weekend snow penetrating into the South.

(MORE: How Winter Storms Are Named | Winter Storm Central)

Current Radar and Conditions

Winter Storm Stella will come in two parts.

An initial disturbance in the jet stream is producing a stripe of snow in the Southeast Sunday morning.

However, a much sharper plunge of the jet by early week should spin up a strong low-pressure center off the East Coast, raising the potential of a nor’easter with heavy snow and wind for parts of the Northeast. The energy helping to spawn that area of low pressure will also bring snow to the Midwest.

(MORE: Where March is the Snowiest Month)

Snowy Setup Early Week

A blizzard watch has already been issued for New York City, Long Island, southern Connecticut, southern Rhode Island and portions of southeastern Massachusetts including Boston for potential blizzard conditions Monday night into Tuesday evening. Wind gusts up to 50 mph and visibilities less than one-quarter mile are possible for three or more hours.

Winter storm watches have also been issued across the Northeast as conditions that would lead to dangerous travel are possible these areas.

A swath of the Midwest from the Dakotas to Lower Michigan is under winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings.

Current winter watches, warnings and advisories

Current winter watches, warnings and advisories

First Up: South Through Sunday

This first part of Stella is currently wringing out snow over parts fo the Southeast.

(INTERACTIVE: See Where the Snow is Now)

Snow will spread eastward through the Carolinas. On the southern fringe of the snow, a rain/snow mix may occur in the midlands of South Carolinas and in coastal North Carolina.

Sunday’s Outlook
Areas shown in darkest teal have the best chance of snow. Areas in pink may see either rain or snow. Areas in green are expected to see primarily rain.

While snowfall amounts may be modest overall, the potential for any accumulating snow as far south as Tennessee, the Carolinas and the northern Georgia mountains may cause slick travel on roads, particularly in the Appalachians.

A slushy inch or two of accumulation is possible.

Nor’easter Develops Early Week

As the southern snow portion of Stella exits, the next phase of Stella will first be wringing out more snow in the northern Plains and Midwest Sunday into Sunday night.

Monday, this snow will spread into the Great Lakes.

Monday’s Forecast
Areas shown in darkest teal have the best chance of snow. Areas in pink may see either rain or snow.

By later Monday and Tuesday, as the aforementioned jet stream takes a much sharper southward nosedive, low pressure will likely intensify somewhere off the Eastern Seaboard, then track northward into Wednesday.

Rapid intensification of the center of low pressure is possible off the Northeast seaboard.

Tuesday’s Outlook
Areas shown in darkest teal have the best chance of snow. Areas in pink may see either rain or snow. Areas in green are expected to see primarily rain.

Stella will bring heavy snow and strong winds to at least part, if not all of the Northeast Tuesday into Wednesday. Snow may begin in some areas of the Northeast as early as Monday night.

Coastal flooding may also become a problem from Long Island to Cape Cod and the islands on Tuesday and Tuesday night as strong, potentially damaging winds from the south and east push water ashore in those areas. Tides on Tuesday may run 2-3 feet above average and coastal erosion is likely.

Blizzard conditions, including near white-out conditions, gusts to 50 mph and heavy snow, may occur on Monday and Tuesday from southern New York to southern Connecticut.

(MORE: The Toughest Places to Forecast Weather in the U.S.)

However, the exact track of the low controls all the key forecast details such as who gets how much snow/wind and when. With a typically uncertain low track forecast this far out in time, these details remain unresolved.

Below is an early look at expected snowfall through Wednesday. Areas shaded in pink have the greatest chance of seeing higher snowfall totals, while areas in teal may see lighter snowfall amounts.

Snowfall Outlook
Areas shown in pink are currently expected to receive higher snowfall amounts than areas shaded in teal, where lower snowfall totals are anticipated.

For now, if you have any travel plans in the Northeast Tuesday or Wednesday, check back with us at weather.com for updates on this potential snowstorm. The forecast is likely to shift a bit as we get closer to the event.

(MORE: 5 Extreme Winter Storms in Spring)

What is quite certain is a nasty snap of cold air, relative to March averages, will descend into parts of the Midwest and East, persisting into much of next week.

(MORE: It’s Going to Get Cold Again in the Northeast, Midwest and Heat Up in the Southwest)

The Corridor Winter Forgot

For some in the Midwest and East, winter has been exceptionally mild and snowless.

Chicago just experienced its first January through February period without as much as an inch of snow on the ground. The last such snow cover at O’Hare International Airport was on Christmas morning.

Along with the Windy City, Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and Baltimore are also at a snowfall deficit of at least one foot through March 10.

In Baltimore, it’s the least snowy winter-to-date since 0.4 inches of snow fell through March 10, 1950. The last one-inch-plus snowfall at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was just over one year ago, March 3-4, 2016.

(INTERACTIVE: When Spring’s Last Snow Typically Happens)

Just down Interstate 95, the 1.4 inches at Washington’s Reagan National Airport so far is the least snowy season-to-date in 19 years, when only 0.1 inches had fallen, and would tie 1972-73 for the least snowy season.

According to an index known as AWSSI, which calculates the severity of a winter based on snowfall and cold weather days, this has been a record-mild winter in the following cities:

  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Lexington, Kentucky
  • Charleston, West Virginia
  • Elkins, West Virginia

Plot of Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) values on March 6, 2017. Red diamonds indicate locations which were calculated to have a record mild winter-to-date through March 6. Red circles denote a “mild” winter, orange circles a “moderate” winter, yellow circles an “average” winter, and blue circles a “severe” winter. (Midwest Regional Climate Center)

Southern snowfall in March isn’t as unusual as it sounds.

For instance, Nashville, Tennessee, has had a number of significant March snowstorms.

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, has had several heavy March snowstorms in their history, as well, but they’ve only had a single 1-inch-plus March snowfall since 1983, a 3.2-inch event on March 2, 2009.

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