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Could We See The Biggest Snowstorm Of The Season This Week?

By Kate Bilo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Could it be - the biggest snowstorm of the season arrives on March 5?

Well, it's not unheard of. March snowfall in the Philadelphia area is a pretty commonplace thing, and in fact major snowstorms in March happen frequently as well. Remember the Blizzard of '93?

But after our extremely cold February, everyone has been hoping for a little taste of spring, and instead of spring we've got yet another heavy dose of winter to look forward to.

This is a long-duration system which has begun already, in the form of an icy mix snarling the evening commute on Tuesday before a changeover to rain Tuesday night into Wednesday. It's a warm front that's causing the problems this evening and tonight, and tomorrow we'll be in that nose of warm air that forms the area between a storm's warm front and cold front - known as the "warm sector" of a storm. While it's not, by definition, WARM tomorrow (high 45) it will be mild enough that any precip will fall as just plain rain. And it's not a washout - showers on and off through the day.

The bigger problems come Thursday morning. Rain will begin to change back to snow by around midnight, and heavy snow will fall over much of the area through Thursday morning. The heaviest should fall between around 4am and 9am with the snow gradually tapering around the noon hour. But while the snow falls, it could "thump" for a while - snow rates approaching 1" per hour are possible.

We are currently forecasting a general 4-8" of snow across the entire area with a few limiting factors - there will be a sharp northerly cutoff to the heaviest snow, so the Lehigh Valley into the Poconos could see slightly reduced totals, and while our southern zones in S NJ and DE will see some of the heaviest precip, a slower changeover from rain to sleet to snow could limit accumulations as well. Were it not for these factors, plus the snow coming after rain, plus the stronger March sun angle, this storm would have the potential produce even more than the 4-8" currently anticipated.

The worst of the travel conditions will be midnight to noon Thursday, but expect roads to be snow-covered through Thursday evening as well. The cold stays in place for Friday, leading to more travel concerns.

I have to put SOME good news in the blog today, though, and that is a return to the 40's this weekend with sunshine both days - commence the melting!

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