The intense ice storm slickening roads and pelting power lines across the South will morph into a bona fide Nor’easter, sweeping up the East Coast overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
That means a potentially perilous commute Thursday morning in a string of eastern cities and the strong possibility of school closings.
Major hubs from Washington, D.C., to Boston will see at least a few inches of snow, while interior areas north and west could get walloped with around a foot, said Bruce Terry, a National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, Md. The federal government closed in Washington ahead of the storm Thursday.
Snowfall totals will all depend on how the storm, which is divided by a snow-rain line, tracks up the coast.
"There's still a little bit of uncertainty, but it will be very messy," Terry told NBC News.
Snow started falling in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area about 9 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The Nor'easter will move north through Thursday morning, dropping about 5 inches of snow in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City, before the snow potentially mixes with or changes to sleet or rain, forecasters said Wednesday night.
New York will see the biggest impact between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. — just as commuters hit the roads.
Amtrak announced reduced service for Thursday along the East Coast, restricting travel options on some of its busiest lines, including the Acela Express between Washington and Boston, the Keystone Service between New York and Pennsylvania, and the Empire Service between New York City and Albany.
But it could have been worse.
"At least for coastal areas along I-95, it looks like it will be a warmer storm," said Steve Villanueva, a meteorologist for NBC New York.
— Erik Ortiz and Bill Karins
First published February 12 2014, 6:52 AM