March 4 (Bloomberg) -- A late winter storm that may bring heavy snow to Chicago tomorrow is expected to strike the East Coast later this week, potentially tying up air traffic and causing power outages.
Odds are better than 70 percent that Chicago will get at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow from the storm, according to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
"For Chicago, it should get in there after midnight and won’t start to taper off until late tomorrow evening," said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. "The evening commute tomorrow is still going to be a bear."
The storm, the third to strike the Great Plains and Midwest in three weeks, will cross the northern Plains, passing some of the nation’s hardest-hit drought areas, then curve below the Great Lakes. Winter storm advisories, warnings and watches stretch from Montana to Ohio and have also been posted in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, the National Weather Service said.
Winter storm and snow warning have also been posted in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, including Winnipeg, according to Environment Canada.
The challenge for forecasters is figuring out what the storm will do it as moves east across the Ohio Valley, Kines said. Where it goes then will determine how much snow falls on East Coast cities from Washington north to New York and possibly Boston.
If the storm takes a more southerly track to the Atlantic, Washington and Baltimore may get the worst of the snow, he said. It might start raining in those cities late tomorrow and change over to snow on March 6.
At least 5 inches of snow are possible across northern Virginia and into Maryland, including Washington and Baltimore, according to a weather service winter storm watch. There is a greater than 50 percent chance at least 4 inches of snow will fall in that area, according to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.
If the storm moves farther north, Philadelphia and New York City may see significant snow, Kines said. If the storm were then to hug the U.S. East Coast, Boston and northern New England may be affected.
Kines said the storm will certainly affect mid-week air travel along the East Coast.
"For anybody traveling Wednesday and Thursday, there is no doubt there are going to be problems in the East," Kines said.
As of 8:30 a.m. New York time, 117 flights were canceled around the U.S. with 77 of them into and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Light snow is falling there and the cities may receive more than a foot in the next 36 hours, according to the weather service.
The storm, packing gusty wind and heavy, wet now, may also trigger power outages across the Mid-Atlantic states, including the Baltimore-Washington area, the day after tomorrow, according to Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.
--Editors: Charlotte Porter, Bill Banker
To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at email@example.com
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