NEW YORK — A powerful nor’easter is charging toward the tri-state area for the second time in less than a week, threatening to dump up to a foot of heavy, wet snow and across New York and New Jersey, create "very difficult to impossible" travel conditions and put pressure on already strained power lines.
Tuesday marks the calm before the storm, with sunny skies and seasonably cool temperatures, but a big change is expected by midnight.
Timing and accumulation
The storm’s track can still vary, as is the nature of nor'easters. Forecasters say there are two main possibilities for how the system could play out.
An inland track would mean more of a rain event for the five boroughs and coastal areas with significant snow totals north and west of the city. If the storm follows an off-shore track, snow totals will go up in the city and along the coast with less snow across the interior.
The latest models, as of 4 p.m., show the storm tracking closer to the coast, which means more rain than snow for the city and Long Island.
Still, even if it becomes a wetter storm, freezing temperatures will make for slick roads, treacherous travel and the chance of an icy mix.
Currently, the timeline of the storm looks like this:
Rain will start about midnight Wednesday then changeover to snow and freezing rain in time for the morning commute. It will be locally heavy at times from the city northward.
The heaviest precipitation will fall during the afternoon to early evening hours on Wednesday. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour are possible.
All precipitation should end by daybreak on Thursday.
Projected accumulations have been knocked down in some areas from earlier predictions.
Total accumulations will range from 4 to 8 inches in New York City and Long Island can expect 1 to 4 inches, downgraded from 6 to 12 inches based on earlier models.
New Jersey, however, is still expected to receive up to or more than 12 inches of snowfall.
Whatever snow falls will be heavy and wet, which means there’s the possibility of downed power lines and broken tree limbs.
Couple that with powerful wind gusts up to 50 mph and there's a chance for renewed power outages in places already hit hard by last week's nor'easter.
At its peak, the March 2 storm knocked out power to more than 360,000 New Yorkers. Some 136,500 customers in Westchester County were still in the dark the next day when Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and sent the National Guard to help deal with the widespread outages.
Some 28,000 customers were still without power Tuesday morning.
The timing of the storm will make travel “very difficult to impossible,” including during the evening commute on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said. Drivers are warned of significantly reduced visibility.
“If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency,” the agency said.
Flight delays and cancellations out of area airports are expected.
Weather alerts issued
A winter storm warning will go into effect at midnight Wednesday and last until 4 a.m. Thursday for northern New Jersey, New York City, western Long Island, the lower Hudson Valley and most of Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service.
Suffolk County will be under a winter storm advisory, downgraded from a winter storm watch.
Coastal flood advisories and warnings have been issued for southern portions of Queens and Long Island.
A snow alert has been issued for the five boroughs starting at 10 p.m. The alert — issued by the city, not the National Weather Service — means the city is preparing hundreds of salt spreaders, plows and tire chains in case they're needed.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm. It will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday and is expected to last through Thursday morning.
In Newburgh, a snow emergency has been declared starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. That means alternate-side parking regulations are in effect, according to these rules.
What comes next?
After the storm moves out early Thursday, a stretch of sunshine will follow. Thursday will be windy and partly cloudy with a high temperature of 42 in the city, low 40s in the suburbs. Friday will feature a mix of sun and clouds. The high temperature will be 44 in the city, mid 40s in the suburbs.
Saturday will be partly cloudy and seasonable with high temperatures in the mid-40s for much of the region, and Sunday will be sunny early followed by increasing clouds as the next area of low pressure begins moving toward the area from the west. The high temperature will be 45 in the city, mid 40s in the suburbs.