Eastern Storm Means Headaches for Travelers, Forecasters – Businessweek

A storm bearing down on the U.S.
East Coast on the eve of Thanksgiving Day is causing headaches
both for holiday travelers and forecasters trying to determine
how bad it will be.

Predictions over the past two days have varied from almost
nothing falling in the large East Coast cities, including New
York, to as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters). The difference is
because of uncertainty on where rain will leave off and snow
will begin, and because of lingering warmth that may make it
difficult for snow to pile up.

The current forecast for New York calls for snow starting
about midday tomorrow, with 4 to 6 inches accumulating in the
northern part of the city and 2 to 4 in the south. As much as 10
inches are predicted in some areas of northern New Jersey
through the lower Hudson Valley and central Connecticut.

“It’s a very challenging forecast, there are still some
things that we are not 100 percent confident on,” said David
Stark, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New
York.

With heavy snow predicted for inland areas and winter storm
alerts stretching from North Carolina to Maine, the nor’easter
is poised to disrupt travel, tie up air traffic and possibly
cause power outages.

Travel Predictions

An estimated 46.3 million travelers will make trips of 50
miles (80 kilometers) or more to reach celebrations for the U.S.
Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, according to AAA. More than 89
percent of those journeys will be by car.

“Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make
travel dangerous,” the weather service said in a bulletin.

Even if the storm just brought rain to the East Coast
cities, it will still cause airline delays from Boston to
Washington, said Michael Musher, a meteorologist at the Weather
Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

For forecasters trying to determine how much snow will fall
and where, there are challenges, too.

New York’s high temperature yesterday was 68 degrees
Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) at 1 a.m., Stark said. The readings fell
through the day and were forecast to be in the 30s by this
morning.

If the warm air lingers at the surface, “it is going to be
difficult to produce a whole lot of snow,” Musher said.

Warm Air

Stark said there’s also a chance a second layer of warmer
air will linger about 3,500 feet above the ground, which could
melt falling snow.

Boston and eastern New England have the same forecasting
challenge.

“The really big area of uncertainty is from northeast
Connecticut to Boston,” said Benjamin Sipprell, a weather
service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts. “That’s the
biggest challenge we are dealing with. It’s a tough forecast,
that’s for sure.”

The warm air may also cause sharp gradients between the
areas that get snow and those that don’t, Musher said. It may be
that some areas get a deep layer, while just a few miles away
toward the coast, nothing falls.

By midnight, the storm will be over in most places along
the East Coast, Musher said.

In New York, the day will be drier and conditions for the
annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade should be good, said Paul
Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, Inc. in State College,
Pennsylvania. The parade kicks off at 9 a.m. on 77th Street and
Central Park West.

After the storm and the holiday, the East Coast cities will
have a good, although chilly, day for Black Friday, the
traditional kickoff for holiday shopping in the U.S., Walker
said.

“The wind could be biting you while as you stand outside
waiting for those sales,” Walker said. “As far as the big
cities are concerned it’s a good day to shop and I think it’s a
good day to watch football, too.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at
bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Marino at
dmarino4@bloomberg.net
Charlotte Porter, Bill Banker

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