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Burst of cold air to trigger snow squalls, rapid freeze-up in Northeast

AccuWeather 3/28/2023 Renee Duff

Old Man Winter is not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

AccuWeather meteorologists say cold air racing across the Northeastern states Wednesday will be accompanied with a burst of wintry weather. This combination could lead to a potentially dangerous freeze-up as temperatures nosedive.

"A vigorous cold front with just enough moisture to bring rain showers, followed by snow showers, will pivot from the Great Lakes region to the Northeast spanning Wednesday afternoon and night," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Temperatures ahead of the cold front will rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit across the region, allowing for road surfaces to climb well above the freezing mark as well. As a result, roads will be wet at the onset, regardless of whether precipitation takes the form of rain or snow.

"The snow showers are likely to melt on most roads in the region, but a sudden drop in visibility with the snow showers could catch some motorists by surprise on the highways," Sosnowski said.

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Wind-swept snow showers that bring fast-hitting reductions in visibility, also known as snow squalls, are notorious for triggering multivehicle accidents on highways. The reduction in visibility is short-lived, typically 15 minutes or less, but it can have significant and deadly consequences.

Visibility could drop to below one-eighth of a mile in some areas, including stretches of interstates 80, 81 and 90 across interior portions of Pennsylvania and locations north and west, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

"This can be dangerous for motorists traveling at a high rate of speed," Anderson said.


The greatest potential for a quick coating of snow on grassy and elevated surfaces will be across the higher ground of northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York.

As the front moves through the region, temperatures could plunge 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit in the span of a few hours. This will put temperatures at or below the freezing mark in some interior locations right around or shortly after sunset.

"Where the roads are unable to blow dry from the wind, we may see some icy spots develop, especially untreated bridges and overpasses Wednesday evening and night," Anderson said. Wooded areas and locations generally sheltered from the sun could also be at a higher risk of a freeze-up.

AccuWeather meteorologists say the narrow but intense line of precipitation could reach all the way to the I-95 cities of New York City and Boston Wednesday night. Precipitation will most likely take the form of rain in both of these metro areas, but a few snowflakes may mix in prior to the wet weather ending.

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Thursday will turn out noticeably chillier across the region in the wake of the front, with high temperatures predicted to be 5-15 degrees lower than Wednesday. A brisk west-northwest breeze in New England will add an additional chill to the air.

Temperatures are forecast to rebound rather quickly as a large storm over the Central states sweeps eastward with milder air Friday into Saturday. In addition to threatening a significant severe weather outbreak over the nation's midsection, this storm could unleash a wide swath of damaging wind gusts across the Northeast at the start of the weekend.

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