A sweeping winter storm at the end of the season through Saturday was predicted to dump a mixed bag of precipitation over much of the United States, raising concerns about dangerous driving conditions and scattered power outages, meteorologists said Friday.
About 70 million people from Arizona to Tennessee and up through Maine were under some sort of winter weather alert, according to the National Weather Service. The inland Northeast was expected to get the worst of the storm.
“It’s a pretty impressive storm system,” Matthew Clay, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., said Friday morning. “For inland New England, we’re expecting pretty much widespread 7 to 14 inches of snow.”
Light snow will fall Friday from the southern plains to Wisconsin on the back of a cold front that crisscrosses the central United States, the Weather Service said. That front will strengthen, leading to the development of a significant winter storm across the Tennessee and Ohio valleys across the eastern part of the country this weekend.
“Snow velocities in excess of an inch per hour combined with gusts of wind will produce drifting snow and drifting snow,” the Weather Prediction Center said Friday. “This will severely reduce visibility and create difficult to dangerous driving conditions.”
The National Weather Service in Flagstaff, Arizona, also warned people that gusts from the northeast would continue through Friday afternoon. “Some roads may be snow covered and icy this morning, especially east of Flagstaff,” the service warned† “Be careful out there.”
In areas of North Texas and South Oklahoma, an inch or so of snow is expected to fall through Friday morning. Similar snow totals were expected through Saturday night for areas around eastern Tennessee, and parts of Kentucky could see up to two inches of snow falling.
The Northeast was most likely to be the victim of snowdrifts, forecasters said. Areas around Albany, NY, could see up to four inches of snow. Cities further north could see as much as 12 inches. in Vermontbetween seven and 14 inches was predicted for much of the state.
“We expect very difficult travel conditions during the day on Saturday and into the night from Saturday to Saturday,” said Mr. Clay over the upper northeast. “We discourage travel unless you have to, and also be prepared for isolated power outages as some of the snow we experience will be wet.”
A meteorologist said it was not uncommon to see a late winter storm system in March.
“March is one of those months where there are some years where we see a lot of snow and there are some years where we see almost nothing,” Torry Gaucher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton, Massachusetts, said Friday. †
“Technically, we are in the meteorological spring,” he added. “As for the calendar, we still have a month before spring really arrives.”
Cities closer to the coast, including New York City and Boston, were expected to see a mix of rain and snow, with significantly less accumulation. Could see the Boston area at least an inch of snow Saturday and Sunday morning.
This weekend’s storm follows a pattern of active winter weather across much of the south and east coasts this year.
In early January, back-to-back storms created dangerous driving conditions in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including a weather system that detained hundreds of motorists on Interstate 95 in Virginia for more than 24 hours. The storm detained truck drivers, students, families and all commuters, including Senator Tim Kaine.
In mid-January, another storm struck in the south, killing at least two people and leaving thousands without power before moving north and sending heavy snowfall over parts of the northeast and Canada. Another January storm swept the East Coast, causing thousands of flight cancellations and forcing New York and New Jersey governors to declare a state of emergency. That storm dropped more than a foot of snow in parts of Massachusetts.
In early February, another storm devastated parts of Texas with snow and sleet, disrupting travel and power supplies. Gov. Greg Abbott called it “one of the most significant icing events we’ve had in the state of Texas in at least a few decades.” Another storm followed in late February, ravaging the northeast with a mix of snow, sleet and rain.
Johnny Diazo reporting contributed.