Tens of millions of people in the Northeast enjoying one of the warmest winters on record faced the ominous prospect of a massive and dangerous storm Monday that could blast the region with up to 18 inches of snow and winds capable of disrupting power, closing schools and creating travel chaos.
A powerful nor’easter was forecast to track along the East Coast late Monday through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Strong winds with gusts of up to 50 mph may cause blizzard conditions along some coastal areas.
The Weather Service warned that any change in track could dramatically alter the amount of snow and where it falls. But there is little doubt that a big storm will explode on the region, says Tom Kines, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.
“A lot would really have to go wrong, so to speak, for this system to not deliver a ferocious punch,” Kines told USA TODAY. “The reality is we are just hemming and hawing over snow amounts. Who gets 6, 12 or even 18.”
Blockbuster snowstorms in March, while not common, aren’t unprecedented. Two of the three largest and heaviest snowstorms in the Northeast since 1956 took place in March, according to The Weather Channel: in 1960 and 1993. The 1993 system, called the Storm of the Century, dropped crippling snow totals from Florida to Maine, left about 300 people dead and shut down travel for days.
A wet, heavy snow combined with high winds could mean damaged trees and powerlines and blocked roads this week. Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston all could face a direct hit, meaning airport disruptions could prompt flight delays and cancellations across much of the nation.
Philadelphia International Airport tweeted that some airlines would be issuing travel waivers and urged travelers to contact their carriers. With snow already rolling across parts of the Midwest, airlines canceled more than 100 flights Sunday and more than 500 on Monday, according to FlightAware. American, Delta and United were among carriers offering no-cost waivers for flights Tuesday and Wednesday at dozens of airports from Virginia to Canada if flights are rescheduled by Friday.
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SOURCE: USA Today, John Bacon