A storm that will travel across the country this week will reach the eastern United States by the weekend, threatening to unleash heavy rain and snow.
After bringing rain to California then rain and wintry weather in the south-central U.S., the storm will emerge into the East late on Saturday.
While a swath of rain and wintry weather is expected for much of the Tennessee Valley, multiple scenarios remain in play farther east.
“Some uncertainty still remains on the exact track of the storm across the Eastern Seaboard this weekend,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Edwards.
The exact track and timing of the system once it reaches the East will influence what weather impacts will be felt for residents from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
No matter the track of the system, there could be widespread travel disruptions from either heavy rain or snow along a portion of the Eastern Seaboard for the weekend.
The storm could cause problems for those planning to travel in order to celebrate the last days of Hanukkah with family. Additionally, holiday shoppers waiting to get out on the weekend may be impacted by slippery roadways or even increased accidents.
Download the free AccuWeather app to see your forecast for rain and snowfall amounts as the storm nears.
Scenario 1: Slower, northerly storm
An area of high pressure holding over the Northeast will keep the region mainly dry and cold late in the week.
“Should the high break down as the storm approaches, it could allow the storm to track northeastward Sunday and into Monday,” Edwards said.
The northward curve of the storm will bring moisture into the colder pool of air across the mid-Atlantic, allowing for snow potential for major cities in the region.
Residents of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey, could find themselves with a blanket of snow by Monday morning.
Warm air being drawn up from the south ahead of the storm would allow much of the precipitation farther south to fall as rain. This includes cities from Richmond, Virginia, to Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina.
There is also some indication that the storm, should it take this more northward track, would have the opportunity to strengthen off the Delaware and Maryland coast on Monday.
If this is the case, cold air could wrap around on the back side of this storm, extending the time that snow could fall in the north, but also allowing the storm to end as some snow for North Carolina and Virginia.
Additionally, this could allow snow to fall as the storm parallels the Northeast coast. It is not out of the question that snow could fall in southern New England, or even farther up the New England coast.
The heaviest snow would likely target the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia in this scenario.
Farther south, rain could be heavy enough in southern Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida and South Carolina to cause flash flooding and ponding of water on roadways. Rain could also reduce visibility for a time to cause slower travel.
In between the area of snow and rain, there could be a dangerous mix of snow, sleet and ice for some communities.
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Scenario 2: Quick, southward track
After moving through Texas and Louisiana, the storm could instead take an easterly track, across parts of Georgia and South Carolina before quickly going out to sea.
“The high over the Northeast on Friday could hold on into the weekend. This would favor a more southerly storm track,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.
The more southerly solution would allow the cold, dry air to win out in the Northeast, with the rain-snow line setting up farther south across Tennessee and North Carolina.
In this scenario, less rain will be in the forecast for these states, with the storm including more snow throughout the duration. Cities that should be prepared for some steadier snow in this scenario include Richmond and Blacksburg, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee.
The heaviest snowfall would likely be in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and in the Appalachians of southern Virginia.
Meanwhile, soaking rain could lead to flash flooding across Georgia and northern Florida.
The storm, should it follow this track, will move rather quickly, allowing for things to dry up by Monday. However, a brief plunge colder air will take place across much of the South in the storm’s wake, before more warmth later in the week.
What is the most likely scenario?
The most likely track of the storm may ultimately be somewhere in between both scenarios.
“There is usually a tendency for storms to creep northward upon nearing the Atlantic coast,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
“There will be some energy rolling in from the Midwest around the time when storm is near the coast,” Sosnowski said. ” Whether or not that energy feeds into the storm and causes it to strengthen and turn northward or instead kicks the storm out to sea is the forecast challenge at this point.”
By then the cold air may be too stale to allow all snow along I-95 in the Northeast.
“No matter which scenario ends up being closest to reality, it appears the area from central and western North Carolina to northwest South Carolina, northeastern Georgia and southern Virginia may be in the middle of a heavy amount of snow and ice with this storm,” Sosnowski said.
AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the storm in the coming days.