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Major snowstorm bears down on the Northeast, with blizzard conditions likely

Heavy snowstorm to slam the Northeast
Heavy snowstorm to slam the Northeast 07:12

What looks to be the biggest snowstorm in several years is on the way for the Northeast. Heavy snow and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph will cover a widespread area with blizzard-like conditions, near-zero visibility and 1 to 2 feet of snowfall on Wednesday into Thursday.

More than 60 million people are covered by winter weather alerts. Blizzard-like conditions are expected in the Northeast, while the Mid-Atlantic can expect a messy mixture of snow, ice and rain. For many areas, it is a little early in the season for such an impactful winter storm.

On Tuesday afternoon the storm system was still over 1,000 miles away, dumping a narrow swath of heavy snow in Oklahoma, where around 6 inches is forecast to accumulate.

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As the storm moves east it will begin to tap moisture from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. As that moisture feeds in, by Wednesday morning the storm will begin to grow and intensify. This is when snow and ice will overspread the lower Ohio Valley and Appalachians.

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With an area of strong high pressure sliding eastward over Ontario and Quebec, the system will run into a wall of Arctic air.  Unlike many situations in the past few years, that will make it harder for the storm to dislodge the cold air. For some, that means this will be an all-snow event. For others, it means riding the line between snow, ice and rain.

The precipitation should move into Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. by late morning. It will stay all snow in Pittsburgh and for most of Pennsylvania. But in the Washington area, the snow will quickly mix and turn to sleet and rain. That will keep accumulation totals in D.C. to a couple of slushy inches.

In Philadelphia, the cold air will remain stubborn enough for a mainly frozen event. That means snow and sleet falling from later in the afternoon through most of Wednesday night. In the city of Philadelphia, 5 to 8 inches is expected, but the heaviest band of snow will fall just north and west of the city in places like Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton, where over a foot is expected. The bullseye appears to be over the Poconos, where up to 2 feet of snow will pile up.

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New York City poses a tricky forecast. The snow will begin later in the afternoon on Wednesday and fall heavily through the evening hours. However, for a few hours overnight, warm enough air will nose into the clouds to turn the snow to sleet, limiting snow totals. But by Thursday daybreak the sleet will have turned back to snow, tapering off to flurries by late morning. Restaurants in the city have been ordered to close outdoor dining due to the storm.

In total, around 8 to 12 inches appears likely in the Big Apple. But the suburbs in northwest New Jersey, the lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut should pick up 12 to 18 inches of snow.

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Southeast New England will also get walloped by heavy snowfall, starting just after sunset Wednesday and continuing through Thursday afternoon. Cold air will remain stubborn, so here it will be mainly a snow event. Hartford and Providence should pick up 8 to 14 inches of snow, while Boston, on the northern edge of the heavier snow, is forecast to receive 6 to 10 inches.

For many areas from New Jersey through New York City and southeast New England, the snow will be wet and heavy, with some icing and wind gusts close to 50 mph. This will put quite a strain on trees and power lines, so scattered power outages should be expected.

Farther north, the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, Southern Tier of New York, Capital District of New York, and southern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will be on the northern edge of the snowfall. In these areas a few to several inches of powdery snow is expected.

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