The official start of winter is still about two weeks away, but conditions are coming together in a way that could bring another major winterlike storm to a large portion of the middle of the United States next week.
Following a lull in big storms, the potential exists for a major storm to hit the Midwest and northeastern United States with heavy rain and the risk of flooding in some areas and heavy snow in others early next week.
A cold blast that follows the storm next week, regardless of its intensity, may lead to the most significant outbreak of lake-effect snow of the season so far.
Should a major storm develop, it may significantly impact travel and shipping interests centered on the Midwest. And the same storm could have ramifications in the Northeast as well.
The exact track of the storm will determine where the boundary between rain and snow falls, and the track of the storm will be greatly tied to its intensity.
A weak storm is more likely to take a more easterly track toward the Northeast. An intense storm is more likely to track well to the west over the Great Lakes.
At this time, it appears the storm will move out of the southern Rockies this weekend then dip over the southern Plains before turning northeastward across the Mississippi Valley and then the eastern Great Lakes region early next week.
Assuming a potent storm develops, warm air will likely surge east of the track of the storm and may encompass much of the Northeast.
Such an intense storm could bring heavy rain and rapidly melting snow over the interior Northeast and New England, which could trigger flooding.
A significant part of the interior Northeast was buried under 1 foot to 3 feet of snow from a storm during the first couple of days of December.
However, a weaker storm may not track so far west and could bring more of a light to moderate wintry mix with the risk of flooding rainfall unlikely over the central Appalachians and New England.
With a potent storm in mind, there is a significant risk of heavy snow and strong winds over the western and northern Great Lakes region. At least one of the major hubs of Chicago, Minneapolis or Detroit would be hit hard by such a storm, resulting in significant travel delays.
Regardless of the storm track and its intensity, multiple days of blustery and much colder conditions will follow during the middle to latter part of next week from the northern and central Plains to the Midwest and Northeast.
The Arctic air outbreak is likely to bring AccuWeather RealFeel Temperatures in the lower teens, single digits and below zero over a broad area of the North Central states starting on Tuesday.
This painfully cold air with gusty winds will then spread into the Northeast during the second half of next week — and it will be a dramatic change following a mild start to the week.
In the past, patterns of this nature during December have unleashed feet of snow with whiteout conditions in localized areas downwind of the Great Lakes.
The position of these heavy snow bands will depend on the wind direction. For example, more of a southwesterly wind at the onset of the cold air would bring heavy snow to the Buffalo, N.Y., area. Conversely, more of a northwesterly wind would bring heavy snow to northwestern Indiana, northeastern Ohio, northwestern Pennsylvania, and the ski resorts in western New York.
Either way, locally heavy lake-effect snow would hammer much of Michigan and southern Ontario.
Could a snowstorm hit the Northeast next week?
Along the Atlantic coast of the Northeast, as well as much of the Appalachians, the arrival of cold air may not be so simple in the wake of the storm from Monday to Tuesday.
There is a chance a trailing storm rides northeastward from the Southern states and brings a period of snow or perhaps a more substantial snow event on Wednesday, Dec. 11.