NEW YORK — In a one-two punch of brutal winter weather, a snowstorm could slam the New York region later this week, followed by the coldest air thus far in this relentless arctic outbreak.
The storm is being called a "bomb cyclone" or "bombogenesis" — an ominous-sounding term frequently used to describe powerful low-pressure systems that intensify rapidly, according to weather.com.
The first snowstorm of 2018 could dump half a foot of snow or more on Long Island and wreak havoc on Thursday's commutes. Storm watches are already up for New York City, Long Island and much of New Jersey for snow beginning Wednesday night.
Heavy snow and strong winds are expected Thursday, but the accumulations will depend greatly on how close the storm tracks to the coast off New York and New Jersey.
The storm is developing parallel to the Florida and Georgia coasts and will morph into a powerful Atlantic storm as it moves north. As of Tuesday afternoon, the system appears to be tracking slightly closer to the East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, which could mean higher accumulations for our region.
The major forecast computer models disagree about what course the storm will ultimately take. As of Wednesday morning, it appears the storm is tracking closer to shore.
Some models call for a more substantial storm, with 22 inches burying the five boroughs as snow falls for nearly a full day. But that worst-case scenario is not the norm and several more models are calling for much less accumualtion.
For the moment, PIX11 News' Weather Center is calling for 4 to 8 inches of snow in the five boroughs and along the Jersey Shore, with 8 to 12 inches of accumulation on eastern Long Island, and about 1 to 4 inches of snow in western and northern New Jersey.
Weather alerts in NY and NJ
Much of the tri-state is under a weather alert, and the timing of the storm could make for “difficult travel” during the morning and evening commutes on Thursday.
Suffolk County and most of coastal New Jersey is now under a blizzard warning, and a winter storm warning has been issued for New York City and parts of interior New Jersey.
The alert for the five boroughs, Nassau County and southeast Connecticut warns of snow accumulations between 5 and 8 inches. Higher amounts -- up to 10 inches -- are possible especially across Queens and Nassau County.
A blizzard warning for coastal New Jersey warns of 6 to 10 inches of snow with the monster storm starting about 9 p.m. Wednesday and lasting through 7 p.m. Thursday. In Suffolk County, 8 to 12 inches of snow is expected.
In addition to heavy snow, strong winds will pose a threat, with gusts up to 50 mph possible on Thursday afternoon and evening. Those powerful gusts could cause blowing and drifting snow, significantly reducing visibility.
Forecasters warn of the potential of downed tree branches and scattered power outages, which would "force considerable hardship where heat would not be available."
The storm is expected to impact the entire East Coast through Friday and has sparked a blizzard warning for parts of coastal Massachusetts and Maine.
Even colder temps ahead
After the snow moves out late Thursday, the weekend brings with it the potential for more dangerous cold, the most intense of this unforgiving winter season so far.
Temperatures will struggle to get out of the single digits to lower teens Friday into Saturday, with wind chills of -10 to -20 degrees early Friday and -15 to -25 degrees Saturday morning.
That'll keep the snow where it is at least through the weekend and the start of next week, according to the head of New York City's Department of Transportation.
"Once it falls, it is not going away," DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said. "We are going to see almost historically low temperatures this weekend" and a warm-up won't happen until Monday.
Daily highs haven't risen above 32 degrees since Christmas Day, according to the National Weather Service. There's a chance that the area could approach the record for most consecutive days with high temperatures being below freezing, the weather service said.
The longest stretch on record of below-freezing temperatures was 16 days, set back in 1961.