3 things to know ahead of a potential East Coast winter storm this weekend

New year, new weather pattern.

After a record-warm month of December for much of the U.S., January will be a different story, with a colder and more active weather pattern set to hit a large swath of the country through the first two weeks of the year.

This includes Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and New York City, which could be looking at their first significant winter storm potential in two years.

People navigate a city street during a snow storm.
People walk down Park Avenue during a nor’easter in Long Beach, N.Y. on March 14, 2023.J. Conrad Williams Jr. / Newsday RM via Getty Images file

A potential storm system would affect eastern areas including the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England from Saturday to Monday. With the potential weekend winter storm still several days away, here are three things to know ahead of it.

It’s been a while since it snowed more than 1 inch in the big cities

As a whole, 2023 was a record-setting low snow year for nearly the entire I-95 corridor from Richmond, Virginia, to New York City.

New York picked up just 2.3 inches of snow all last season — a new record low. It also broke the record for latest first measurable snow, not seeing any snow until February. This was the first time Central Park failed to pick up any snow during December or January in a winter season.

New York is just one of a roster of cities in the midst of their longest streaks of not seeing 1 inch or more of snow in a 24-hour period.

New York City (687 days), Philadelphia (702 days) and Baltimore (703 days) are all having their longest streak of consecutive days without more than 1 inch of snow on record. Washington, D.C., (713 days) and Richmond (715 days) are sitting at their second-longest streaks.

A significant storm is likely, but it’s too early to predict exact snowfall totals 

A significant storm is likely, but it’s too early to predict exact snowfall totals. The track of the storm will determine where the rain and snow line sets up and what locations see all snow, all rain or a mix of both (including the potential for some ice).

With temperatures expected to be right around freezing, it is looking likely that what snow falls will be heavy and wet in nature as opposed to light and fluffy.

The best accumulating snow potential is north and west of the I-95 corridor

The I-95 corridor is likely to be near or located right on the rain and snow dividing line depending on the track of the storm.

This could mean that areas north and west of the urban corridor like Hagerstown, Maryland; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Worcester, Massachusetts, could see accumulating snow, while the I-95 cities like Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston could see lighter accumulations, a mix of rain and snow, or predominantly wet roadways.

As of Monday night’s forecast models, I-95 cities like Washington, Philadelphia and New York had approximately a 60%-80% chance of seeing at least 1 inch of snow.

By contrast, more interior Northeast cities had a 70%-90% chance of seeing at least 1 inch of snow.

The odds for I-95 cities versus interior Northeast cities get even more spread out when looking at the potential for at least 6 inches of snow. The I-95 corridor cities had just a 10%-30% chance of seeing half a foot of snow, and the interior Northeast cities were closer to a 40%-60% chance.

It’s not just the East Coast looking at a stormy start to 2024.

Out west, 2024 is picking up right where 2023 left off, with a parade of Pacific storms bringing rain, mountain snow and more battering waves to that region.

On Tuesday, high surf advisories for coastal areas and winter alerts for the Sierra were in effect.

High surf advisories are in effect through Wednesday and into Thursday from the Bay Area stretching down to Southern California. Across these areas, large waves are forecast to batter parts of the West Coast and could lead to some coastal flooding for vulnerable areas.