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Heavy snow and ice are expected to frost the East Coast, from Virginia to Maine

The winter storm system is expected to bring freezing rain and heavy snow all along the East Coast over the weekend.
Weather Prediction Center/NOAA
The winter storm system is expected to bring freezing rain and heavy snow all along the East Coast over the weekend.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain are forecast to strike the East Coast on the first weekend of the new year — posing the risk of slippery roads, power outages and downed trees in a number of states, according to the National Weather Service.

Starting Saturday night, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are expected to see the heaviest snowfall from the winter storm system, with up to a foot of snow in some areas. Parts of New York and New Jersey will also accumulate a few inches of wet snow as the region faces bouts of snowfall and rain throughout the weekend.

Further south, Virginia and North Carolina will receive a mix of snow and sleet after midnight on Saturday. The wintry mix is expected to turn into freezing rain, which can cause hazardous road conditions.

Freezing rain threatens power outages and hazardous travel in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia

Freezing rain has been the source of some of the "most disastrous winter weather storms," according to the NWS. It occurs when snowflakes fall through a warm layer of air and then a cold batch of air. The whiplash in temperatures causes water droplets to instantly freeze upon contact with a surface, whether it's the ground, trees or power lines.

Parts of north central and northeast Georgia are expected to see freezing rain on Saturday, which may lead to hazardous road conditions and power outages, forecasterssay.

Similar icy conditions are bound for parts of North Carolina, where a mix of snow and sleet will begin to fall Friday and turn into freezing rain early Saturday. The NWS issued a winter storm warningfor Transylvania, Henderson, Rutherford Mountains and Polk Mountains counties from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday local time.

"Power outages and tree damage are likely due to the ice. Travel could be nearly impossible," the NWS warned.

The wintry mix will be even more significant in Virginia, in areas west of Interstate 95 including Roanoke to the Shenandoah Valley.

Snow and sleet are forecast to accumulate between 1 to 3 inches in Augusta and Nelson counties in northern and central Virginia. A winter storm warning is in effect in those areas from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday local time. Forecasters advise commuters to keep extra food, water and a flashlight in their vehicle in case of an emergency. They also warn of icy and slippery sidewalks.

Cities around Washington, D.C., including Alexandria and Arlington are expected to see minimal snow.

In Maryland, the potential winter storm is expectedto pack 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet in Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York expected to see heavy, wet snow

The bulk of the winter storm system will cross through Pennsylvania starting late morning to early afternoon Saturday, according to Sonya Lewis, a NWS meteorologist in State College, Pa.

Central and northeastern parts of the state are forecast to receive the heaviest snowfall over the weekend, with up to 5 to 6 inches of snow. The total may be more depending on snow showers leading up to and after the storm.

Pittsburgh could see 1 to 3 inches of snow. While Philadelphia is projected to see little to none, Lewis said areas northwest of Philadelphia like Allentown and Reading could see upwards of 2 to 4 inches.

Meanwhile, parts of northeastern New Jersey, the lower Hudson Valley in New York and southern Connecticut are slatedto see 6 to 8 inches of wet snow. Forecasters expect snow to fall starting Saturday evening and through Sunday night, with brief bouts of rain. The NWS warned of minor coastal flooding along the southern and eastern bays of Long Island.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts brace for flash freeze

Forecasters anticipate up to a foot of snow and wind gusts as high as 40 miles per hour this weekend in northern Rhode Island as well as central, eastern, and western Massachusetts.

The NWS saidon Friday there is still uncertainty in the exact track and intensity of the storm, but warned of travel complications and power outages.

There is also a chance of a flash freeze on Sunday in Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, including Providence and Boston — posing the risk of wet or snowy roads turning into ice and becoming dangerous to drive. The frosty conditions are expected to improve starting Monday.

Heavy snow totaling more than 6 inches is also forecast for southwest Maine and parts of central and southern New Hampshire. In Vermont, 6 to 8 inches of snow are forecast to pile up in Rutland and Windsor counties. The NWS said snowfall rates could exceed an inch per hour Sunday morning.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.