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Multihazard storm to wallop Northeast with rain, wind and snow

AccuWeather 3/24/2023 Alex Sosnowski

A potent storm packing flooding rain, high winds and heavy wet snow will affect areas from the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley to New England and the mid-Atlantic during the first part of this weekend, AccuWeather meteorologists say. For many areas, Sunday will be the better of the two weekend days for travel and outdoor plans.

Not only will the storm hamper outdoor plans during the first official weekend of spring, but it could also hit major travel hubs hard on Saturday, including Chicago to Boston and New York City.

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The storm will strengthen as it travels northeastward from the southern Plains on Friday to the Great Lakes region Saturday night. As air rushes toward the storm's center, a zone of strong winds will develop.

A broad zone of wind gusts ranging from 40-60 mph is in store from southeastern Wisconsin to northern Georgia and the central portions of Pennsylvania and New York from late Friday night to Saturday night. AccuWeather StormMax™ wind gusts to hurricane force (75 mph) are possible over the higher elevations of the Appalachians and part of the Ohio Valley during the height of the storm.

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Winds this strong can break tree limbs, knock over poorly-rooted trees and spark power outages. The force of the wind pushing on Great Lakes waters can lead to flooding along the shorelines. At greatest risk of flooding will be on the northeastern end of Lake Erie, such as in the Buffalo, New York, area.

At this time, it appears the strongest winds will avoid the immediate coast from the mid-Atlantic to New England, but powerful gusts can reach throughout the southern Appalachians.

Much of the same area at risk for gusty winds could also experience severe weather on Saturday.

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The main risk will be damaging wind gusts, which could be strong enough to blow loose objects and impact motorists, especially on interstates. However, thunderstorms could also bring heavy downpours that would bring reduced visibility and slowed travel in the region. Some small hail is also a possibility.

The storm's path from the Southern states to Canada will allow it to tap into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, followed by Atlantic moisture.

For much of the zone from the Ohio Valley through the mid-Atlantic and southeastern New England, the storm's most significant legacy will be to produce drenching rain lasting anywhere from a few hours to an entire day.

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The greatest risk of flooding on a regional basis will extend from back to the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri to the western slopes of the Appalachians in southwestern Pennsylvania, western Maryland and northern West Virginia. The bulk of the rain in this zone will fall before Saturday afternoon.

The scope of the flooring in this zone will range from flash flooding of urban areas and small streams early on as rain pours down to significant rises on some of the rivers in the region this weekend to next week, long after the rain stops.

Farther to the north and east, the rain will be heavy enough and fall for a long enough time to slow travel, cause poor visibility and lead to urban flooding incidents. This includes the major hubs of Detroit, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston into Saturday. In Boston, the worst conditions are likely from Saturday to Saturday night.

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Because of the dynamic nature of the storm and fitting for spring, thunder and lightning can occur on more than one occasion in the rain zone.

Warm air will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, with a high in the 60s. However, the air will be progressively colder farther to the north along Interstate 95, with a high in the 50s in Philadelphia, the 40s in New York City and the upper 30s in Boston. Factoring in a breeze from the Atlantic in the coastal Northeast, much of Saturday will be raw with AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures in the 30s and 40s.

On the storm's northern edge, the air will be cold enough for snow but barely so. Because of temperatures near the freezing mark, the snow will tend to be wet and clinging in nature, weighing down trees and power lines. Gusty winds associated with the intense storm will raise the risk of power outages as stressed tree limbs shift and break.

AccuWeather forecasters say anywhere from 3 to 12 inches of snow will fall from eastern Iowa, northern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin to part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and the northern parts of New York state and New England. The heavy wet snow zone includes a large part of central Ontario, southern Quebec and New Brunswick, where some of the highest snowfall totals of 20 inches (50 cm) can pile up.

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Snow may fall only briefly at the onset in central portions of New England, New York state and at the tail end of the storm near Chicago, resulting in only a light accumulation. However, enough snow can fall around Chicago to prompt aircraft deicing operations at O'Hare International Airport. It could make roads slushy and slippery in parts of the Windy City as a few inches of snow will pile up over the northern and western suburbs. A slight southward shift in the storm track could bring a few inches of snow to the downtown area itself.

In the wake of the storm on Sunday, which will end up being the better of the two weekend days for much of the Midwest and the Northeast, air from the Pacific will sweep in.

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Temperatures will reach or exceed historical averages for much of the region on Sunday, with highs ranging from the 40s over much of the northern tier to the 50s and 60s in much of the Ohio Valley, southern New England and the mid-Atlantic region. Temperatures may top 70 in Washington, D.C.

Only where snow lingers into the afternoon in northern New England and adjacent areas of Canada will temperatures not climb too far above the freezing mark to close the weekend.

As AccuWeather's long-range team has noted multiple times since early this winter, spring warmth may be slow to arrive in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest.

"Two branches of the jet stream, one across the northern tier of the U.S. and one in the Southern states, may come together in such a way to allow a storm to strengthen along the mid-Atlantic coast next week rapidly," AccuWeather Senior Long-Range Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said. "There will be cold air nearby, which could be enough to allow a zone of accumulating snow somewhere in the central Appalachians, the mid-Atlantic and New England in the Tuesday to Wednesday time frame."

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The speed at which the storm gathers strength will determine if moderate to heavy snow develops and how far south and close to the Atlantic coast that snow may occur.

AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to track additional storms as they roll across the country and a new storm that will bring more rain and mountain snow to California from Monday night to Wednesday of next week.

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