Winter mess socks Northeast, more snow storms 'stacked' behind it

A wintry mix of snow turning to slush and freezing rain hit New York and Boston Tuesday, and one meteorologist says a line of snow storms is set to hit the Northeast from now to February.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Pedestrians cross an intersection in a mix of snow and sleet in mid-Manhattan, New York, Tuesday. Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned that up to 2 inches of rain could fall today.
Bebeto Matthews/AP
A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is shoveled from a walkway of an apartment complex in the Brooklyn borough of New York Tuesday.

Tuesday started off with a familiar ring to it for many residents of the Northeast: canceled or delayed flights, frustrating travel on icy highways, and the prospect of yet another major winter storm on its way.

In the New York metro area, residents woke up to a coating of snow that quickly turned to sleet and freezing rain. Boston and Philadelphia were not much different.

“We are having a prolonged cold spell,” says meteorologist Henry Margusity, a severe weather expert at in State College, Pa. “We normally get some thawing in January.”

In New York there has already been 30.9 inches of snow in Central Park, compared to a normal 27 inches. However, it’s far too early to put the snow shovel away, says Mr. Margusity.

He is predicting that the Northeast will be hit with another major winter storm this coming Friday. At the moment he expects another 6 to 8 inches of snow. But, it could be a lot more as it heads toward New England.

“It could bring significant precipitation,” he warns, since the storms have shown a propensity to intensify just off Cape Cod.

That won’t be the only snow. By Tuesday of next week another storm will roll in followed by another storm later in the week.

“This will last right until February, we’re just stacked with snow storms,” says Margusity. “Even I am getting tired of it.”

The tough winter is the product of a very strong La Niña, a current of cold water in the Pacific Ocean. “The La Niña is the strongest we have ever seen,” says the meteorologist. “It’s just dumping cold air across the eastern part of the nation, and we have a high pressure system over Greenland that is blocking the systems from moving further east.”

From an economic point of view, the bad weather is disruptive, but it could be worse.

“Most of the storms in the Northeast started after Christmas,” says Kristin Boughter, manager of client services at Wayne, Pa.-based Planalytics, a weather-forecasting company that markets its services to business. This allowed consumers to get to the malls without waiting for snow plows to clear the roads. The subsequent storms are not hurting the retailers that much, she says.

“The bad weather will be a benefit to a lot of retailers who are trying to clear out their winter merchandise such as boots and sweaters.”

She says retailers are also seeing a run on such items as ice melt, snow shovels, and windshield wiper blades. She anticipates grocery stores, including those in the South, will also need to stock up on soups, hot chocolate, and oatmeal since there are still some frigid days ahead.

The snow and frigid weather are not a boon to the airline industry, though, which has had to cancel thousands of flights and try to figure out ways to move stranded passengers. On Tuesday morning the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported another 409 flights were canceled, mostly out of Newark's Liberty International Airport.

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