Weather forecasts suggest that serious snowstorm is bearing down on the Northeast this weekend, which is predicted to dump between one and two feet of snow along the coast from Virginia to Boston.
But that’s not the worst part.
As Slate reports, the blizzard could also bring massive waves and flooding to New York and New Jersey, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Hurricane Sandy.
Slate’s Eric Holthaus tweeted this image of the flooding forecast:
Before Sandy, the last time the region saw flooding like that was during a December 1992 Nor’easter, which brought high tides and waves up to 25 feet near the Jersey Shore. Like that storm, the one this weekend will arrive during a full moon, when the tides are highest. In addition, the storm is expected to hover just offshore, increasing the risk of flooding along the coast from eastern Maryland to Long Island, Slate notes.
And that’s just in New York. Mashable reports that in Washington DC, it could be the biggest snowstorm in 100 years, possibly bringing up to two-and-a-half feet of snow.
Here’s Holthaus again with the most likely and worst case snowfall for DC:
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) January 20, 2016
The National Weather Service in the Baltimore-Washington area said it could bring “significant travel delays, closures, and threats to life and property.”
The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang tweeted this image of the predicted snowfall in DC:
Another meteorologist called it a “blizzard for the ages”:
As Slate’s Eric Holthaus wrote earlier this week, “What’s amazing — perhaps even more so than the impressive potential snow totals — is that all the major weather models are already locked in so far in advance.”
Now, we’re still several days away from when the blizzard is supposed to hit, so a lot could change in that time. Current models predict the brunt of the storm touching down on Friday evening and lasting through Saturday evening.
This could signal the end of the unusually mild winter the Northeast has been having, which is only partially linked to this year’s record-strength El Niño — a global weather pattern linked to warmer-than-usual water temperatures in the Pacific.
Here’s a pretty animation of one of the forecasts:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Paul Kocin said in a forecast discussion on Tuesday that the conditions for this week’s snowstorm are “textbook,” saying that there was potential for a “significant” East Coast snowstorm Friday through Sunday.
Kocin noted that while there is good agreement in the weather models, there are small but crucial differences. All models suggest the storm will continue building as it moves toward the Mid-Atlantic Coast, become more vertical and move northeastward.
The storm will likely slow down as it moves off the Mid-Atlantic Coast, but then it could either speed up again as it heads northeast, or several weather fronts could intersect farther north and east, Kocin wrote. In both scenarios, “the overall speed of the system is important to affect the amount of snow in any one area,” he said.
But as good as the forecasts are, they’re still just predictions, and they have been wrong in the past. Take the “historic blizzard” that was forecast to hit New York City in January 2015, which was predicted to dump as much as 2 feet of snow on the city but only brought about 5.5 inches.
So don’t panic yet, but it might be time to get the snow shovels ready!