Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the weekly weather newsletter, the CNN Weather Brief, which is released every Monday. You can sign up here to receive them every week and during significant storms.
We are already into meteorological spring as of March 1, which means we did not see a single nor’easter in the winter months, and hardly any snow for some of the East Coast’s big cities. But a major spring nor’easter is in the making and will have far-reached effects on the Northeast and New England this week.
“Overnight Monday, a coastal low pressure will strengthen rapidly into a major nor’easter that significantly impacts the Northeast beginning later Monday night through Wednesday,” the Weather Prediction Center said.
A nor’easter is a coastal storm with winds out of the northeast. Nor’easters are notorious for bringing huge impacts such as heavy rain, snow, strong winds, power outages and coastal flooding.
“The greatest concerns that I have about this storm is the fact that there will be heavy, wet snow that will combine with high winds, essentially causing power outages,” David Novak, director of the Weather Prediction Center, told CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. “The weight of the snow will be extreme. It’s known as ‘snow loading’ and has to do with the heavy, wet type of snow we are expecting.”
Areas around New York City will begin feeling the storm’s effects later today. Heavy rain and windy conditions will be the opening act, before the storm peaks tonight through Tuesday evening. Closer to Boston, the storm will peak Tuesday into Wednesday.
“The heavy-wet nature of the snow, combined with max wind gusts up to 50 mph, will result in scattered to widespread power outages and tree damage,” the prediction center explained. “Similar impacts could be felt along the I-95 corridor from New York City to Boston.”
Along Cape Cod and the islands, winds could gust as high as 60 mph. Further inland, winds will top 50-55 mph, adding to the threat of falling tree limbs and power outages.
More than 20 million people are under winter alerts in advance of the storm, including cities like Boston and Worchester in Massachusetts, Albany and Syracuse in New York and Portland, Maine.
Heavy, wet snow could fall at 2-3 inches per hour, resulting in up to a foot of snow in the higher elevations of the Northeast. The area includes the Catskills and southern Adirondacks in New York, Berkshires and Worcester Hills in Massachusetts, Monadnocks and White Mountains in New Hampshire, and southern Green Mountains in Vermont. Localized snow totals of 24 to 30 inches are possible.
“We’re trying to tell people not to focus on the amount of snow that you’ve got. Some areas are going to have a lot and other areas will only get four or five inches,” noted Glen Field, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service office in Boston. ” Anything more than four inches of heavy wet snow will be enough loading to knock down trees, power lines, and lose power,” he added.
Novak said there will be a sharp difference between low and top snow totals. Some areas around Boston could see up to 7 inches of snow, he said, while other sections, like downtown, might see little to no snow.
Along with rain, snow, gusty winds and possible power outages, another big concern along the coast will be coastal flooding and beach erosion. For coastal areas in New York and Connecticut, residents can expect water to run a foot to a foot and a half above normal levels. This could result in flooding in coastal communities. Also, four-foot waves will break along the shoreline, leading to beach erosion.
The storm is coming late in the season, however, it is not unheard of. Nor’easters can strike the Northeast through April. In 1997, a nor’easter on April Fools’ Day buried New England. However, it is odd the first one of the season is striking so late. According to Field, New Englanders knew better than to count on the season finishing without a nor’easter.
“I think everybody was still expecting that we were going to get one,” Field said.
By late Wednesday, the nor’easter will push out, leaving chilly and windy conditions.
States make preparations
Ahead of the storm, Maine Gov. Janet Mills ordered state offices closed Tuesday.
“I encourage Maine people to stay off the roads if they can, plan for extra time if traveling, and give plenty of space to road crews and first responders working hard to keep us safe,” Mills said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency for five counties – Morris, Sussex, Warren, Passaic and Bergen – in the northern part of the state.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont ordered a partial activation of the state emergency operations center, starting Tuesday.
CNN’s Sara Smart contributed to this report.