The First Nor'easter of the Season Could Be a Huge Snow-Maker

The Rockefeller Center tree, a symbol of the season.
The Rockefeller Center tree, a symbol of the season.
Photo: Cindy Ord (Getty Images)

After months of late fall cosplaying as early fall, we’re finally jumping right into winter in the Northeast. A full-blown nor’easter is set to bring the first meaningful snow of the season to the region as well as the Mid-Atlantic.

Advertisement

Last year was a rough one for snow lovers in the New York metro area, marking the second-lowest seasonal snowfall tally for the season on record. But the coming nor’easter could start this winter off with a bang for NYC, Philadelphia, and much of the eastern U.S. Right now, the storm system is gathering strength in the Rockies. But an area of low pressure will race across the U.S. before creating a slurry of rain and sleet in the Southeast with snow in the highlands of North Carolina on Tuesday evening.

But things will really get going on Wednesday as the storm system slides over the Atlantic and starts to hook up the Eastern Seaboard. Pressure will drop, and the storm is forecast to take on that classic nor’easter shape of powerful winds wrapping around a cold core of air. It will send bands of precipitation streaming inland as it climbs the coast.

While heavy snow is likely inland from just west of Washington, DC, up to the western Catskills, there could be a sharp gradient cutting off snow closer to the Mid-Atlantic coast. There, a mix of rain and sleet could also tamp down snowfall totals. The biggest wild card for snowfall totals will be around New York City and Philadelphia. Right now, both cities are right on the cusp of that gradient between a foot or more of snow vs. half a foot or less. A few wobbles in the storm’s track or a few degrees of extra warmth will be the deciding factor in whether you’ll still be able take a stroll in Central Park or if you’ll need to bust out the cross country skis to get around.

The snowfall forecast will be ever-evolving over the next 48 hours, so if you live anywhere in the region that will be affected by the nor’easter, it’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye on it and heed all warnings about travel. In addition to snow, the storm could bring strong winds and flooding to the coast, so don’t sleep on those impacts either.

Even if it performs closer to the lower end of expectations, the nor’easter could still drop more snow in 24 hours than New York saw all of last winter. A paltry 4.8 inches (12.2 centimeters) of snow fell last year, marking the second-least snowiest winter on record for the city despite measurable snow in May. Large swaths of the eastern U.S. also dealt with abnormal warmth last winter, a telltale sign of climate change. In the Southeast, leaves and flowers bloomed the earliest they ever have in 39 years of record-keeping.

Advertisement

A good snowstorm doesn’t mean the planet isn’t warming. But it is a reminder of things that we stand to lose if we don’t cut the climate crisis off at the pass.

Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.

DISCUSSION

imnotdedyet
David E. Davis

A few wobbles in the storm’s track or a few degrees of extra warmth will be the deciding factor in whether you’ll still be able take a stroll in Central Park or if you’ll need to bust out the cross country skis to get around.

Installed the last set of snow tires this weekend. I’m ready to play in the snow.