December 9, 2023

East Coast in for a pressure washing as a powerful storm arrives Sunday

A feisty low-pressure system is gearing up to bring plenty of disruptive weather to the East Coast over the next couple of days. Widespread heavy rain could lead to flooding along the I-95 megalopolis while the storm produces snow near the Great Lakes and severe storms across the southeast.

Sunday/Monday's storm is part of a dynamic pattern that's gradually making its way across the eastern half of the country. A cold front extending off a low-pressure system moving through the Great Lakes is responsible for most of the active weather we're seeing on Saturday. A new storm will develop along this front on Sunday, becoming the dominant system that'll bring all the headaches to end the weekend.

Sharp wind shear through the atmosphere combined with a cold front running into a pool of warm, moist air is a recipe for severe thunderstorms. An expansive severe risk covers a chunk of the southern U.S. on Saturday, mainly focused on the lower Mississippi Valley east into Alabama and Tennessee.

Any severe thunderstorms that bubble up on Saturday could produce damaging winds, hail, and a few tornadoes. We already saw a couple of tornadoes touch down in north-central Tennessee early Saturday afternoon.

We'll see that storm threat shift east on Sunday as the cold front heads toward the Atlantic coast. Severe thunderstorms are possible from the D.C./Baltimore region down the I-95/I-85 corridor toward southeastern Alabama and the northern half of Florida. The main risk with Sunday's storms would be damaging wind gusts, but a few tornadoes are possible, especially in parts of eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

Farther north, this developing storm's main threats will be drenching rains, heavy snow, and blustery conditions.

Flood watches span the I-95 corridor from D.C. to Portland as forecasters anticipate several inches of rain falling through the day Sunday. Lots of rain falling in short order can overwhelm waterways and drainage systems, leading to pooling and possible street flooding.

It's not going to be a gentle downpour, either. Widespread wind gusts of 20-30+ mph will accompany the storm as it chugs through interior New England on Sunday. Much stronger winds are likely for coastal communities across the northeast, where a period of 50-60+ mph wind gusts will be possible into Monday.

Winds this strong combined with wet soils could lead to fallen trees and power lines. Make sure your holiday decorations are tied down or brought inside, as well. Those things will take flight in a hurry once the gusty winds start, and it could be dangerous if they blow into the road.

Cold air flooding in behind the system will allow for widespread snow across the Northeast interior and down the spine of the Appalachians. The heaviest totals are likely near the Canadian border, where higher elevations in New York and Vermont could see more than a foot of fresh snow by Monday.

If you have plans to travel late Sunday or early Monday, it's worth keeping in mind that some models are struggling a bit with the potential changeover from rain to snow across parts of Pennsylvania, the Mid-Atlantic, and even down into the North Carolina Piedmont.

Plan ahead for the potential for a burst of snow during the last few hours of precipitation overnight Sunday into Monday, with possible accumulation if temperatures are cold enough.

[Top model image generated using WSV3]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.