The intense cold will be the main weather story the storm rolls through late Sunday: bitterly cold air straight from the Arctic will roar in, bringing below-freezing temperatures to 200 million Americans.
“Freezing rain, heavy snow and heavy rain are expected in association with the storm system through the central and eastern U.S. over the next few days,” the National Weather Service warned.
On Friday, the heaviest snow will hit South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, AccuWeather said.
Then, the storm will wind up and roar into the Northeast and New England on Saturday and Sunday, where the heaviest snow will fall.
AccuWeather said 40 inches is possible in parts of northern New England, while close to 30 inches of snow may fall on parts of central and northern New York state and the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Snowfall rates could reach 2-3 inches per hour.
The storm “will be a blockbuster in terms of impact and dangerous conditions,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Snowfall of 12-24 inches is likely to be more common in the heaviest band from the storm, AccuWeather forecast. But, blowing and drifting at the height and conclusion of the storm may cause the snow depth to vary by several feet.
“Plows are not likely to be able to keep up,” Sosnowski warned. “As the storm strengthens, winds will cause major blowing and drifting of snow.”
“Those who are on the road through the heart of the snow and ice area will be at risk for becoming stranded for many hours,” Sosnowski said, adding that they “may have to face temperatures plummeting to dangerously low levels.”
The combination of winds and heavy snow could lead to numerous power outages, particularly in the heaviest snow swath in the interior Northeast, according to the Weather Channel.
Boston should finally see its first inch of snow of the winter season.
The Weather Channel warned that a thin band of sleet and freezing rain is also possible in parts of the Ohio Valley eastward into the mid-Atlantic states.
The Weather Channel has named the storm Winter Storm Harper. No other private weather company, nor the National Weather Service, is using that name.