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Nasty nor'easter could slam the Northeast and New England this weekend

A coastal storm is forecast to intensify rapidly into a bomb cyclone over the Atlantic. How close it tracks to the coast will determine whether there is just a dusting or a crippling blizzard from New York City to Boston.
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New York City could get as little as 2 or as much as 20 inches of snow this weekend. That’s the range of possibilities with the nor'easter that is forecast to slam the Northeast and New England beginning Friday night and lasting through Saturday.

Meteorologists were combing through the latest forecast model data Wednesday morning to get a handle on the track, timing and snow totals associated with an impending powerful winter storm.

There was still high uncertainty in the forecast because of disagreement among the forecast models, which were showing two distinct forecast scenarios: a storm that stays far enough offshore to bring just a few inches of snow to the Interstate 95 corridor or a storm that tracks close enough to produce a crippling snowstorm and potentially the first blizzard in four years.

The pieces will start to come together beginning Friday, when a fast storm system will move through the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, bringing some light “appetizer” snow. Meanwhile, another disturbance moving across the southern tier will eventually become a coastal low off the Carolinas coast.

The coastal storm is expected to intensify rapidly, going through a process called "bombogenesis," and become a powerful bomb cyclone. Bombogenesis occurs when the center of a storm's pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. This storm is forecast to double that.

A factor leading to the explosive development of the storm system will be the near-record warm waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, which are running several degrees above average. Because of climate change, water temperatures along much of East Coast have warmed faster than 96 percent of world’s oceans. Just like in the case of hurricanes, warm waters alsos fuel nor'easters.

If the two pieces merge Friday, a stronger storm with heavier snow and higher winds is likely. Crippling double-digit snowfall totals would be possible over a wide area, hurricane-force wind gusts would be possible for coastal areas, and areas from New York to Boston could go under their first blizzard warnings since 2018.

If they don't merge, a weaker storm farther out to sea is likely, with less snow and wind.

Forecasters expect to have higher confidence in the track of the storm later Wednesday and early Thursday. That's because one of the disturbances critical to the evolution of the storm has finally come onshore over Alaska, which means better sampling and data for the forecast models.

Significant snow is likely across parts of the Northeast and New England, but exact totals and the locations of the highest snow totals can't be determined yet.

Coastal flooding is likely; its severity can't be determined yet, as it will depend on the track of the storm.

Strong winds and power outages are likely; similarly, how strong and where can't be determined yet.

Winter storm watches are likely be issued late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Arctic air will prime the region for snow, with below-freezing temperatures ahead of the storm.

On Wednesday morning, 226 million people woke up in below-freezing temperatures. The cold air stretched from the Canadian border down to the Gulf Coast.

Wind chill watches and warnings were up for parts of the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes, where wind chills Wednesday morning were as cold as 40 degrees below zero. Parts of the interior Northeast and New England were also very cold, with wind chills as cold as 10 degrees below zero in places like Syracuse, New York, and around 10 degrees in Boston and New York.

Wednesday was forecast to be the coldest day of the workweek for the Great Lakes, the Northeast and the Southeast.

While temperatures moderate slightly for the rest of the week, another colder shot of arctic air is expected this weekend, just in time for the approaching nor'easter.

High temperatures Saturday in Washington, New York and Boston are forecast to be in the low to mid-20s.