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High-impact Northeast snowstorm still on track for midweek (with forecast video)

Risk of COVID-19 vaccine shipment delays

(Photo: PennDOT)

A strong nor’easter will likely impact surface and air transportation in the Northeast during the second half of this week. This includes most major metropolitan areas along the Interstate 95 corridor, where COVID-19 vaccine shipments may be headed.

The forecast hasn’t changed much over the past few days. The latest computer guidance models are still showing a major winter storm, especially by mid-December standards, moving through the region Wednesday and Thursday. This rapidly intensifying storm system will produce heavy snowfall, gusty winds, coastal erosion and high seas. All indications point to this becoming one of the most impactful December storms in the Northeast in recent years.

Washington, D.C. will probably see less than 6 inches of total snowfall, and the southern Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina could see up to a quarter inch of ice buildup due to freezing rain.

Look for widespread accumulations of 6 to 12 inches from Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston. Some locations farther inland, just west of I-95, may get up to 24 inches. 

Winds will also be a major issue as the storm intensifies, with blowing and drifting snow leading to periods of potential whiteout conditions. Winds will also slow down operations at ports and energy facilities, as well as in offshore shipping lanes.

Prior to the storm’s arrival, any changes will likely involve slight shifts north or south of the heaviest snow band. Changes in the track of the storm will determine the precise location of the heaviest snow totals, but there is little debate at this point as to whether this will be a major storm for a significant portion of the Northeast.

(Image: NOAA)

This storm will affect tens of millions of people and some of the most important supply chain hubs in the nation. Besides I-95, other major interstates within the risk zone that will experience delays include I-90, I-80, I-70, I-64, I-81, I-77, I-76, I-79, I-87, I-91, I-86, I-84, I-89 and I-93. Road closures and power outages are likely.

Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) and CSX (NYSE: CSX) are the primary rail carriers within the potential impact zone, and air cargo will be affected due to inevitable fight delays and cancellations at several major airports.

Although the storm will be a quick mover, some of its impacts will linger after the storm exits the region Thursday night.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.