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Big Snowstorm Forecast Sends a Shiver Up the East Coast

The New York Times logo The New York Times 1/20/2016 By KATIE ROGERS
Technicians made snow in Central Park on Tuesday in preparation for the annual “Winter Jam” winter carnival this weekend. (Beginning Friday, manufactured snow may not be necessary.) © Mike Segar/Reuters Technicians made snow in Central Park on Tuesday in preparation for the annual “Winter Jam” winter carnival this weekend. (Beginning Friday, manufactured snow may not be necessary.)

New York and New England could be spared the brunt of a snowstorm that meteorologists say is likely to reach the mid-Atlantic Northeast states beginning Friday, but residents of the Washington, D.C., area might not be so lucky.

The storm could affect 50 million people across parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Baltimore, New York City and Boston, AccuWeather reported on Wednesday. One to two feet of snow is expected, but meteorologists warn that many details about where the storm will hit hardest and about how much snow will fall remain unclear.

In preparation for the storm, Muriel E. Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., announced on Wednesday a plan for the storm that could include calling upon the National Guard.

“We are really focused on clearing the snow,” Ms. Bowser added. “We have not had a forecasted storm of 24 inches in my memory.”

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Paul Kocin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Md., said that 85 of the 90 models the service uses point to a severe storm in Washington, but said that “two to three days before the storm, there’s still a lot of things that could potentially change.”

A few other areas look certain to see a significant amount of snowfall: Parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia are likely to have at least 12 inches of snow by Friday evening. The Philadelphia area is also likely to face a significant storm beginning late Friday.

Beginning Friday, Washington could potentially see a storm on par with the so-called Snowmageddon that hit the area in February 2010, Mr. Kocin said. That snowstorm, the first of two major storms to hit Mid-Atlantic States that month, dropped over 20 inches in Washington. (Though models point to a severe storm, there remains a small chance that the system expected this weekend could change track and produce a more moderate snowfall, The Washington Post noted.)

On Wednesday, the weather service issued a blizzard watch that will remain in effect for the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas until Saturday evening, and warned of travel disruptions, including airport and road closures, and threats to life and property. On areas near the coast, flooding could become an issue.

Ms. Bowser, the mayor of Washington, told reporters on Wednesday that her administration’s biggest concern was with possible power losses and whether the authorities can reach people who need help. In anticipation of a storm, city officials have opened warming centers and are increasing their outreach to the homeless.

The mayor said she has requested access to additional National Guard vehicles that are able to reach people who become stranded, and that her administration was prepared to ask for guard personnel if needed.

Ms. Bowser said there were no plans yet to close schools on Friday, adding that public schools had already been scheduled for early dismissal at mid-day for record-keeping.

As the storm develops, any changes could mean these forecasts could change. New England and New York could see their fortunes change in the days ahead.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kocin said there were signs that the storm was shifting slightly southward.

The forecast for New York showed a 30- to 50-percent chance for six or more inches of snow this weekend, Ms. Buccola said. Either way, conditions will be windy, with gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour on Saturday, Ms. Buccola said. Coastal flooding is also a possibility.

“We know for sure that it will be windy whether or not there’s snow or rain,” Ms. Buccola said, but added that the New York area was not facing a historic storm.

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