U.S. News

01.03.14

After the Blizzard, 100 Million People Will Be Hit With Freezing Air From the North Pole

As people from Chicago to New York dig out from a foot or more of snow, the second wave of an Arctic attack begins.

As far as snowstorms go, this one didn't disappoint. That is, if you enjoy being snowed in.

As the Blizzard of 2014 moves out to sea, it's left a wake of wintery woe behind. As we wrote yesterday, more than 100 million Americans will be affected by the storm.

New York City public schools will be closed on Friday, the first weather-related closure since Hurricane Sandy swept ashore in October 2012. The blizzard is the first big test of newly inaugurated Mayor Bill de Blasio. The city is notoriously stingy with snow days, closing schools less than 10 times since 1978, including Friday. Schools are also closed across much of New England, with Boston announcing their closure more than 36 hours in advance.

RELATED: America's 5 Worst Blizzards

Great Blizzard of 1888
Click image for more. (Buyenlarge/Getty)

As of 7 a.m. Friday, more than 1,400 flights had already been cancelled across the country, according to FlightAware's live tracker. That's on top of 2,366 cancelled on Thursday as the storm was still gathering force. At the moment, travel between New York City and Boston is virtually shut down, whether by road, rail, or air. In the words of the National Weather Service:

FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS...MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED...STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.

I'd rather just stay home.

As people from Chicago to New York dig out a foot or more of snow, the second wave of an arctic attack begins.

If you're caught in the storm, expect blizzard conditions to end by 7 a.m. in and around New York City, and by noon in Long Island and New England. After that, the dig-out process begins, though Mother Nature won't be helping any with temperatures expected to remain near record lows until Saturday. Another burst of extremely cold weather will arrive early next week.

What's next?

If you're watching the storm from your window, all decked out with a Snuggie and a cup of tea, here's how we got to where we are right now, and what you can expect in the storm's wake:

The particularly intense nor'easter that spawned this blizzard has officially entered 'bomb' territory–a technical meteorological definition meaning a rapid deepening of a low pressure system by more than 24 millibars in 24 hours (also, designed to frighten little children into a lifetime of snowy terror). Our blizzard-y friend achieved this mark with room to spare, intensifying from 1012 millibars Thursday morning to 986 millibars at press time, a mere 20 hours later.

So far, that's been enough to produce tropical storm conditions (sustained 39 mph winds or higher) just offshore New Jersey, New York, and New England for much of the overnight hours. Official blizzard conditions (snow-laden winds dropping visibility to a quarter-mile or less for more than three consecutive hours) were likely ongoing in parts of New York City between midnight and 5 a.m., and in Boston from about 8 p.m. through 6 a.m., with extremely cold air boosting the fluffiness of the flakes that fell. Winds gusted as high as 50 mph in Atlantic City, N.J.

As the storm departs, snow totals are racking up. As of 7 a.m., totals the highest NWS-reported East Coast snow totals by state were: 

23.5" in Topsfield, MA

10.1" in Clifton Heights, PA

10" in Lakewood, NJ

9.4" in Wilmington, DE

9.3" in Brooklyn, NY

9" in West Swanzey, NH

8" in Woonsocket, RI

6.8" in Staffordville, CT

6.3" in Kingsville, MD

2.5" in Washington, DC

The storm exceeded even the National Weather Service's expectations, with official snow total forecasts revised upwards during the overnight hours. When the flakes finally stop falling, New York City can now expect eight to 10 inches, and parts of northeast Massachusetts just north of Boston can now count on impressive totals exceeding two feet.    

Thursday's 10.6 inches at Boston's Logan airport were enough for a new daily record, beating the old one (8 inches) set way back in 1904.

In fact, forecasters in Boston were downright flabbergasted at the snowfall rates being produced by the combination of northeast winds blowing exceedingly cold air and relatively warm ocean waters, a rare occurrence known as ocean-effect snow.

THIS IS SOMEWHAT OF A UNIQUE EVENT AS TREMENDOUS OCEAN ENHANCEMENT ASSOCD WITH VERY STEEP LOW LEVEL LAPSE RATES OVER THE OCEAN WILL BE THE MAIN CONTRIBUTER TO THE HEAVY SNOW ACROSS EASTERN MA.

NWS Boston: "These temperatures [at or below 0ºF] combined with heavy snow are extremely unique for our region" Through 7 a.m., with 14.6 inches of snow and 0.55 inches of liquid equivalent officially, snow ratios in Boston exceeded 26:1. That's more than 2.5 times typical! This is the main reason the storm over-performed.

More commonly seen over the Great Lakes, this kind of snow is notorious for being extra light and fluffy–not great for snowballs, but really good at boosting totals on the ground in a hurry.

In short, wicked pissah.

Bone-chilling cold to come

If shovels full of snow isn't enough, the cold air to follow could prove to be historic. 

On the storm's heels, a chill worthy of Siberia will spread across most of the East Coast. Wind chill advisories are currently in effect for 32 states, as far south as Tampa, Florida, with cold air pushing even farther south than that.

The coldest air will be felt in two successive bursts over the next five days, with actual temperatures bottoming out at or below -15ºF at least once across vast swaths of the upper Midwest, the Chicago area, the Ohio Valley, and parts of interior New England. 

Forecasted low temperatures on Tuesday morning are mind-boggling, the coldest in some spots in more than a decade, and in extreme cases, nearly 40 degrees below average for early January:

Why so cold? Climate Central's Andrew Freedman does a great job of explaining how, quite literally, the North Pole's cold air vortex will be shifting thousands of miles south over the coming days. The result will be an epic cold air outbreak, with much of the coldness being channeled southward from Greenland.

My advice? Bundle up, and watch the snow photos stream in.

PHOTOS: Snowstorm Slams Midwest and Northeast

snow-gal-update2-1
Click image for more storm photos. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)