A major late-season snowstorm was projected to last through Wednesday night and dump plowable snow on the Washington area for the first time in two years after burying the Midwest under more than a foot.
The National Weather Service said the District could get equally walloped by Old Man Winter, but a more likely scenario was a daylong storm and two very snarled commutes.
The storm was projected to hit the mid-Atlantic region late Tuesday night in the form of a wintry mix of snow and rain and continue throughout Wednesday with heavy, wet snow. Up to 6 inches were predicted for the immediate Washington area.
“It all depends on when the rain turns over to snow,” meteorologist Jared Klein said Tuesday. “It does look like it will be throughout the day [Wednesday], both in the morning and afternoon rush hours. That’s doubly a concern. The afternoon rush hour has more certainty of snowing, and it’s going to be a heavy, wet snow.”
The storm is the product of two low-pressure systems moving across the country, one moving eastward, that wreaked havoc on the Dakotas and most recently Minnesota and Chicago, where schools and about 1,000 flights were canceled.
Chicago was hit Tuesday by a storm expected to dump as much as 10 inches of snow in the area before the end of the day — the most since the 2011 blizzard and its more than 20 inches of snow.
The system moved across the Dakotas and Minnesota on Monday, dropping up to a foot of snow in some areas and freezing rain in others.
Another low pressure system was making its way up from the Carolinas and into Virginia, and while Mr. Klein assured that the combination of the two storms would not result in another superstorm, it was still shaping up to be strong.
“Merging of storms happens all the time,” Mr. Klein said. “It’s like waves in an ocean. Sometimes two waves hit each other and become a stronger, higher wave. But if they’re not in sync, they can cancel each other out. This time it’s going to be stronger.”
Hundreds of flights in and out of area airports were canceled Tuesday afternoon in advance of the storm. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, the federal government had not announced whether it would close Wednesday.
Though it has been two years since the last major snow storm, area power companies were drawing on experience to prepare their crews for the strong possibility of outages.
“Wet snow can weigh heavily,” Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said. The power company had additional crews on standby and en route from the eastern and central regions of the state, as well as the Carolinas.
“At about 5 to 6 inches of wet snow, we can expect that trees will bend or break onto power lines,” Ms. Anderson said. Along with heavy snow weighing down lines, there’s also the concern of high winds snapping limbs that have been weakened by the snowfall, as well as slippery roads causing car collisions with utility poles.
If there’s a silver lining to the forecast, it’s the relatively warm temperatures predicted for the coming days.
Weather Service science and operations officer Steve Zubrick said that while Tuesday’s temperatures hovered in the mid-40s, the thermometer could drop to 33 degrees overnight.