Its name is Jonas, which, Weezer connotations aside, honestly doesn't sound all that threatening. But the winter storm set to pummel the East Coast this weekend is a monster that has set off storm warnings across the Mid-Atlantic region.
Jonas is expected to make landfall Friday night and will really get cranking over the weekend, extending through Sunday. Washington, DC, and Philadelphia will be under a blizzard warning starting Friday, meaning they could experience wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour. A blizzard watch for the New York City area, which includes parts of Long Island and New Jersey. goes into effect on Saturday. The National Weather Service warns winds could be most severe on Saturday evening, reaching up to 60 miles per hour.
"I am not trying to scare people," Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service,said in a statement. Still, he warned, "people should be aware that this storm has the potential to be a major snow producer and if they don't take the proper steps... they could be adding to the impact or adding to the risk factors."
In DC, residents are preparing for two feet of snow, which would be the most the nation's capital has seen in over a century, according to Weather Underground blogger Bob Hensen. That city's mayor, Muriel Bowser, said at a press conference that she expected the storm to last 36 hours; her office issued a press release reassuring the public that the city had 39,000 tons of salt, more than 200 plows, and 145 dump trucks on hand to help clear away the deluge.
According to the Weather Channel's latest model, other areas of the East Coast, including New York and Philadelphia, will see a foot or more of snow, and there are warnings of ice and coastal flooding. The report stated that as of Thursday night, more than 85 million people—about a quarter of the country's population—were covered by winter weather warnings, stretching from eastern Kansas to the Carolinas to the New York City metro area.
The Weather Channel also is also reporting that ice will cause massive problems. Ice accumulation doesn't just lead to slick roads and perilous travel conditions, but can also cause tree damage, which in turn can take out power lines. Parts of central and eastern Kentucky and regions of the Carolinas are most at risk for losing power as a result.
Coastal flooding caused by Jonas is also expected. Atlantic beaches, the Jersey Shore, and the Delaware Bay are all expected to be impacted significantly, especially on Saturday morning and evening, when high tides and potential beach erosion are expected to cause damage. The coast of Massachusetts and the west end of the Long Island Sound, and also face a chance of coastal floods, according to the Weather Channel.
Just how bad will Jonas be compared to other historic snowstorms? Most sources place it up there with the Big Dogs of Winter's Discontent: the Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse of 2010 that dumped at least 20 inches of snow across the Mid-Atlantic; the so-called "President's Day II" storm of 2003 that brought ten inches from Ohio to Delaware to southern New England; and the famed Blizzard of '96, which Tom Niziol, the Weather Channel's winter weather expert, said is the storm Jonas most closely resembles.
It's fair to ask whether these Doomsday predictions are being a bit overhyped—New Yorkers will remember last year's winter weather panic, when Mayor Bill De Blasio shut down of the city in the face of a prospective "Storm of the Century" that never really materialized. There's no real way to say just how much impact Jonas will have on the East Coast, but as far back as Tuesday, NOAA Weather Prediction Center forecaster and Northeast snowstorm expert Paul Kocin was warning that "the mechanisms coming together for a major snowfall are textbook."
The American Red Cross has provided a handy checklist to help those in the Jonas's path prepare for the storm. In it, you'll find the suggestion that you winterize your vehicle and fill it up with a full tank of gas before the storm hits. You'll also need to stock up on food, a week's worth of canned or food that doesn't need to be cooked like bread and crackers, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Follow Brian McManus on Twitter.