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Powerful storm bringing snow, strong winds to East Coast – The Washington Post

The same parent storm system brought a dose of snow to the Mid-South on Friday night, with thundersnow reported in Arkansas. Eventually, it will reach Atlantic Canada with fierce wind gusts as it evolves into a potent low with an air pressure rivaling that of Hurricane Sandy.

Behind the system, which is dragging a strong cold eastward, temperatures are plummeting into the 20s and 30s. Freeze warnings blanket most of the Gulf Coast from the Big Bend of Florida to the Golden Triangle of Texas and Louisiana. A warming trend is expected next week.

Where the snow is now

Low pressure was centered off the coast of New England late Saturday afternoon. Lows in the Northern Hemisphere spin counterclockwise which was helping to draw cold northwesterly winds southward over much of the East Coast behind the storm.

That flipped rain to snow in the interior Mid-Atlantic despite temperatures that climbed comfortably into the 60s on Friday south of the Mason-Dixon Line. D.C. saw the transition around 9 a.m., with a changeover in Baltimore shortly thereafter. A coating to several inches of snow fell in the Washington-Baltimore region through around 3 p.m. Saturday when the snow subsided.

Farther to the north, snow was falling from the Delmarva through eastern portions of Pennsylvania and New York late Saturday afternoon, while extending into Vermont, New Hampshire and interior Maine.

Another coating to one inch may fall from the Delmarva through northeast Pennsylvania, with about 2 to 5 more inches expected from eastern New York through western Maine. However, in the mountains of northern New England, an additional 4 to 8 inches is possible before the snow ends early Sunday.

Totals so far

The storm brought a swath of snow to the Mid-South and Tennessee Valley as it began to become organized Friday, with heavy totals already observed in the central Appalachians. A general 3 to 4 inches fell in northeast Oklahoma along Interstate 44, with similar totals in central and northern Arkansas, including around the Little Rock metro area.

Nashville got 2 to 5 inches, with 4 to 7 inches observed in the higher terrain in eastern parts of the Volunteer State. For Nashville, it was the biggest March snowfall in seven years.

A few 8-to-10-inch totals were reported near the Tennessee-Kentucky-Virginia border on the Cumberland Plateau.

Several communities along and just west of Interstate 79 in West Virginia are in the 7-to-9-inch range as snowfall begins to ease.

Farther to the north, some of the heaviest snowfall fell in north central Pennsylvania and south central New York, where 8 to 12 inches had piled up — mostly falling Saturday Nearly 8 inches had also fallen in portions of northern Vermont, where totals should easily climb into the double digits before the snow is over.

Strong winds and low temperatures

Behind the cold front, which was pushing through the Delmarva Peninsula around midmorning, temperatures will drop like a rock. Temperatures in the interior Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will fall into the upper teens or lower 20s tonight, especially north of the Pennsylvania border; 20s and lower 30s will be recorded through the Carolinas.

Those cold conditions will come riding in on northwesterly wind gusts topping 40 mph, with gusts over 50 mph likely in the high terrain of the Blue Ridge, Alleghenies and pockets of the Appalachians. The Blue Ridge is under a blizzard warning for the first time in March since at least 2009; it is the first time the National Weather Service office that serves Baltimore and D.C. has issued a blizzard warning since 2016. That’s where wind gusts will combine with falling or freshly fallen snow to reduce visibilities below a quarter mile.

Subfreezing air may spill all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday morning, with cities including Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., under freeze warnings.

Warmth and severe weather risk squeezed offshore

Ahead of the front, southerly winds helped a sliver of mild air to reach up to the extreme eastern Carolinas, where a tornado watch was in effect until 1 p.m. Warm air ahead of the front also fueled a line of storms over the Florida Peninsula Saturday morning.

Despite unusually mild temperatures and sufficient instability, or “juice,” to get thunderstorms rumbling, storms largely clumped and clustered together. That mostly mitigated the tornado threat, since twisters usually form from more isolated storms that can tap into the atmosphere’s full dynamics.

While only one tornado was reported on Saturday, near Crescent City, Fla., there were 54 reports of damaging thunderstorm winds — mostly from the eastern North Carolina and the Florida Peninsula where strong to severe storms passed during the first half of Saturday.

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