A Storm With Big Potential — Snowfall Predictions

How bad will it be?

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Phillip Thompson

A storm is heading this way late Wednesday into Thursday and possibly not ending until Friday. But, how bad could this snowstorm be?

The storm should be at its strongest sometime Thursday afternoon into evening.

Our snowfall predictions Wednesday morning called for six to 10 inches in and around the city and up to 18 inches north of Philadelphia.

But those predictions could change. This pending storm could be very different from the previous three monsters this winter.

The first two formed in the Gulf of Mexico and threw tremendous amounts of moisture up our way into the cold air. Those are known as "Type A" storms, and are the easiest to forecast.

The third monster came down from Canada and re-developed off the coast. That was a "Type B" storm, and they are more difficult to predict. The storm track had to be perfect for us to get huge snow amounts and that is what happened.

Now for the current storm setup. It’s a very complicated scenario that could be the trickiest to forecast of all (another "Type B").

We are talking here about three systems coming together to create one intense area of low pressure, which will produce heavy snow and strong winds in SOME parts of the Northeast U.S. But the track of the low has to be perfect, and it has to intensify soon enough to bring the maximum potential to our area.

The low track would have to have to be a rare one -- moving east to west from the ocean toward New York City (storms usually move southwest to northeast, or south to north).

The worst-case scenario would be blizzard conditions over parts of our area Thursday and Thursday night. The intense storm could lead to power outages due to the heavy wet snow sticking to trees and power lines.

What could go wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it)? The low could be slow to intensify; the low track could be more southeast to northwest; or the low could even move so close to our area that it brings in warmer air, changing snow to rain.

The last storm with a similar setup was in March 2001. In that case, one to two feet were predicted in our area. We ended up with one to two inches (Long Island got a foot and New England two feet).

It is important to be aware of the potential of this storm.

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