JAN. 21 UPDATE: Blizzard Watches Issued as Powerful Snowstorm Moves Closer
Get those snow shovels ready: Storm Team 4 says it's looking increasingly likely that the season's first punch of significant snow will be falling this weekend.
The region looks like it will miss the heaviest snowfall totals, as most forecasting models predict the strongest parts of the storm to move south of the tri-state.
Still, the storm shouldn't be taken lightly. The National Weather Service issued blizzard watches for all five of New York City's boroughs, all of Long Island, as well as Union, Essex and Hudson counties in New Jersey. The watches are in effect from Saturday morning until 1 p.m. Sunday.
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Winter storm watches were also issued for large swaths of New Jersey and New York. Ocean County, New Jersey, was also under a coastal flood watch.
One computer model suggests that more than a foot of snow could blanket New York City by the time snowfall stops Sunday morning, Storm Team 4 says.
Other models give more conservative totals -- the European model that correctly predicted Sandy's path in 2012 estimates that the city could see just under 9 inches -- but either way, Storm Team 4 says it looks likely that the tri-state will see accumulating snow, anywhere between 6 to 12 inches.
Both models predict the nor'easter will move in across southern New Jersey late Friday and then into the metro area, where snow will begin falling early Saturday and increasing in intensity as the day drags on, for a full 24 hours.
Storm Team 4 predicts the greatest impact time for the storm could be 8 a.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
Inland New Jersey could see the heftiest accumulation of snow, about 8 to 12 inches of snow, with wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph. The precipitation will fall as all snow, and residents should prepare for possible power outages.
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It will be a different story in the Hudson Valley and interior Connecticut, where very little snow is expected at this point, just 3 to 6 inches, with little to no mixing. It'll still be windy, possibly up to 50 mph.
Long Island and coastal Connecticut and Westchester, meanwhile, will see more mixed precipitation, with coastal flooding possible and winds of 50 to 60 mph.
The Jersey Shore could also see mixed precipitation, perhaps sleet or rain, with high winds of 60 mph or more, surfs of 8 to 12 feet and a storm surge of 2 to 4 feet. Moderate tidal flooding is expected.
The wind, accompanied by high tides swollen by the pull of a full moon, could also make for damaging coastal flooding and beach erosion. Near hurricane-force winds are predicted for parts of the east coast.
Storm Team 4 says that there are still uncertainties in the forecast, though. If warmer ocean air impacts the storm, there could be a changeover to rain that could put a damper on snow totals.
Either way, towns and residents across the region are getting ready for the weather.
Airlines are giving travelers options in anticipation of the weather, some waiving fees for flight changes.
New York City's office of emergency management is making preparations, and Mayor de Blasio said they're not taking the potential storm lightly. But he added that it doesn't look like this weekend's potential snowfall is the type of storm that would call for drastic measures.
"(This is) not the sort of storm that would shut down train service," he said.
And across the Jersey Shore, beachfront towns are trucking in sand to build up berms of sand to protect coastal homes and businesses from what could be significant coastal flooding.
Before the storm, the region should see a slight warmup from Tuesday's bitter conditions. The highs on Wednesday should be both in the mid 30s, a welcome reprieve from the sub-freezing conditions earlier this week.