Snowmageddon. Snowpocolypse. Snowzilla. Call it what you will, it looks like North America is set for a serious bout of weather as an intensifying snow storm sweeps across the states, bringing with it predictions of a historic blizzard hitting the East Coast.
Record levels of snow are expected to be dumped on Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic region, while the Gulf states have been warned of heavy rains and the potential for tornadoes.
In the build up to the storm, a state of emergency has been declared in the capital and five other states: Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The storm is expected to affect 50 million people and bring up to 61 centimeters (2 feet) of snow over the weekend, with gusts of winds as strong as 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph).
Washington is expected to be the worst hit, with an astonishing 76 centimeters (2.5 feet) of snow forecast to fall between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 22, 2016
People finding themselves in the eye of the storm have been warned to be aware of the potential danger of blizzards, high winds, white-outs and even possibly thundersnow – a thunderstorm where snow falls instead of rain. Those on the edges have been cautioned against storm surges and inland flooding.
It is not looking as big as Superstorm Sandy that hit in 2012, but people from Delaware to New York have been warned to prepare themselves all the same. “We're bracing for the first big storm of the winter. I want to let my fellow New Yorkers know we're prepared, the agencies here are ready for what's coming up ahead,” said New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.
— CNBC (@CNBC) January 20, 2016
More than 4,500 flights are reported to have been canceled for Friday and Saturday in expectation of the blizzard, while the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will suspend all operations of the subway over the weekend. Schools will also be closed, and motorists are urged to stay off the roads, with fatalities having already been recorded in Virginia and North Carolina.
Store shelves have been stripped clean, as people have begun stocking up on essentials like bread and milk in preparation for the lock-down that is likely to occur over the weekend.
Low pressure from the eastern Pacific Ocean has moved west across the United States, eventually giving way to a more intense area of low pressure around the coast, and it is this that becomes the driving force in forming the heavy snow bands set to smother Washington.
The intense pressure gradient will also create strong winds and extreme rainfall along the Gulf Coast. As the patch of low pressure continues to push east, the area of severe weather will do the same.