We won't get far into 2014 before the year's first snowstorm takes aim on parts of the Midwest and Northeast. And while this storm is still a few days away, there are already some indications that this could pack quite a punch.
New Year's Day
New Year's Day
Midwest Snow Forecast
Midwest Snow Forecast
This long-duration snow event begins Tuesday, as an expansive swath of light snow spreads from the northern Rockies and northern Plains into the southern Great Lakes New Year's Eve night as we shift from 2013 into 2014.
As the upper-air system digs southeastward, this will continue to sustain a broad east-west oriented zone of light to moderate snow from parts of eastern Kansas into the southern Great Lakes as far east as central New York and northern Pennsylvania Wednesday and Wednesday night.
Snow will continue in the Ohio Valley Thursday morning, possibly as far south as parts of northern Tennessee, before ending later in the day.
At this time, a narrow swath of six inches or more of snow appears likely across parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley and southern Great Lakes New Year's Eve into New Year's Day and Thursday. Keep this in mind if you'll be coming or going to New Year's festivities in this area.
Lighter amounts of generally one to four inches are expected from Kansas into the mid-Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley. Accumulations of at least one inch are also possible over much of Kentucky and northern Tennessee.
Meanwhile, the subtropical branch of the jet stream will start to become active over the Gulf of Mexico with an area of rain expanding along the Gulf Coast through mid-week. This should help to trigger the development of a weak coastal low near or just east of the Carolinas Thursday or Thursday night, just as the Midwestern system spreads into the Northeast.
Coastal Storm Emerges
Thursday into early Friday these two systems are expected to join forces to form a single – and much more powerful – low-pressure system.
This is where details become especially important. The exact timing of the northern and southern pieces of this system will determine the ultimate timing and location of the resulting coastal storm. This, in turn, will determine where the rain-snow line sets up – and just as importantly, when and where the heaviest snow will fall.
At this time, still two to three days out, there are some differences in the location, intensity, and especially the timing of the coastal low amongst the various computer models we use for guidance. These differences are typical for any snowstorm, and will be reconciled over the next few days. That said, there are enough similarities among the majority of computer forecasts that some portion of the Northeast appears to be at risk for a significant snowstorm from this setup.
Depending on the exact timing and track of the coastal low, a large portion of the Northeast – including, potentially, even coastal areas of New England – could experience a period of snow and strong north to northeast winds Thursday into early Friday. Given widespread temperatures in the teens and 20s, this could be a relatively dry, powdery snow with an added "fluff factor" – meaning deeper snow accumulations than you'd see from a wetter, gloppier snow.
And with the coastal low whipping up the wind, we could be talking about blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility, particularly across New England, but possibly for areas farther west into New York state as well.
While it's too early to be specific about snowfall amounts in particular areas, the potential for at least six inches of total snowfall looks highest along the Interstate 90 corridor from northern Ohio into New York state and southern New England.
This winter storm is expected to exit the East Coast by Friday afternoon. Expect significant flight delays at the major Northeast hubs from late Thursday into early Friday, and challenging winter driving conditions from Thursday into Friday.
In addition to the snow threat, there could be at least some minor coastal flooding for eastern New England due to strong onshore winds late in the week. As with everything else, the details will depend on the exact track, forward speed, and strength of the coastal low pressure center.
Stay with The Weather Channel and weather.com as we continue to update the forecast on this first winter storm of 2014.
MORE: Winter Storm Gandolf (first named winter storm of 2013)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Max and Shaina Richardson walk their dog through the snow. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)