Rain, snow and wind due Weds., Thurs.

That much we can probably say with some certainty. The complex storm system headed our way will make for an interesting couple of days Wednesday and Thursday. But while we may well see some snow before we break back out into the sunshine for the weekend, unless Nature deals us a surprise (as some forecasters suggest), it looks like the worst of the storms' fury will be visited on New York and New England.

UPDATE: 12:31 p.m. Tues.: The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Central and Southern Maryland that includes the following:


Earlier post resumes:

The most important piece of what's coming will be a storm that is tracking along the southern, subtropical branch of the jet stream today. It is expected to pass by to our south, emerging off the Carolina coast Wednesday or Wednesday night. There, gathering energy from the Gulf Stream, it is expected to intensify and move up the coast, curve toward the northwest and push inland.

AccuWeather.com is calling this an "historic" storm for upstate New York and New England, with loads of snow, blizzard conditions and near hurricane-force winds in some locations. (map at right)

"Cities likely to be impacted by heavy snow for all or at least part of the storm include: New York City, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Scranton, Allentown, Reading, Williamsport and Burlington. The storm also deliver heavy rain and flooding northeast of the center of circulation."The cities of Boston, Providence and Portland may have their hands full with coastal flooding problems."

The impact here in Maryland is less clear, although everyone seems to agree that we will experience a period of strong northwest winds as the storm's counter-clockwise circulation sweeps by to our east. AccuWeather.com predicts "blowout tides" from New Jersey to North Carolina. That will mean persistent low tides on the Chesapeake as the winds blow water out of the bay.

The question then becomes what sort of precipitation will we see. Those winds out of the northwest will bring in much colder air. And forecasters at Sterling believe the temperatures aloft will be plenty cold enough to support snow. The question is whether temperatures at the surface will allow that snow to land as snow. Says Sterling:

"Dynamics associated with upper low crossing the mid_atlantic Wednesday night/Thursday will be sufficient for chance [of precipitation]. Thermal profiles during the period supportive of snow ... but surface temperatures near 40 Thursday afternoon allow for rain/snow mix south and east of Interstate 95."

Officially, the forecast for Baltimore calls for "a slight chance of rain after 1 p.m." Wednesday. That's followed by "a chance of rain or snow before midnight, then a chance of snow" for the rest of the night as temperatures drop to around 28 degrees. Thursday's forecast from Sterling calls for "a chance of snow." But the surface temperature will rise to 38 degrees. So will we see any real accumulating snow? No word yet from Sterling.

Says AccuWeather.com: "Exactly where this storm forms and tracks will determine whether you get all snow, all rain, snow to rain or just snow showers. A difference in track of as little as 50 miles will mean the difference. On thing is for sure, most people in the mid-Atlantic and New England will have problems from this storm's strong winds."

The student forecasters at FootsForecast.org aren't sure how much snow we should expect from this event, either. But they see loads of moisture and plenty of time for the coastal storm to pile up whatever does fall. So they are holding out the possibility of a surprise, especially in the extreme northeastern section of the state:

"With this system parked near the Gulf Stream for over 24 hours, it is entirely possible that moisture transport produces snowfall totals at or above significant criteria [4-5 inches], and may certainly surprise many people expecting just snow showers."

THIS JUST IN from Eric the Red, who had once dismissed this storm as all wind and snow showers, is sounding more concerned:

"Some disturbing model trends for Thurs and Friday. Not a slam dunk by any means, but the odds of getting hit by wind and snow ... have gone up.

"The big issue is how close to the coast does the storm track on its initial push up the East Coast. Not only will this impact how much - if any - snow falls Wed night into early Thurs, but will also dictate how quickly precipitation pushes back south into the region Thurs afternoon and night. Right now, consider us under an Uh Oh Watch.

"Bust Factor: Huge. This could end up with a whole lot of wind and clouds ... and some flurries. Or it could be another blizzard."

(SUN PHOTO/Jed Kirschbaum)

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