Winter Storm Jonas Interstate Travel Forecast
Meteorologist Ari Sarsalari forecasts the mid-week storm hitting the Dakotas, Nebraska and Tennessee.
Winter Storm Jonas is expected to spread a swath of snow, some of it heavy, from the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys across the Appalachians and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast later this week.
(MORE: Winter Storm Jonas Forecast)
If you plan to hit the road this week or this weekend, you should stay informed on the latest forecast. With some planning, you may be able to avoid driving in dangerous winter weather conditions.
To help you plan, we’ve put together forecasts for three major interstate highway corridors likely to be affected by the storm: Interstate 95 in the Northeast megalopolis, Interstate 81 in the interior Mid-Atlantic region including the Shenandoah Valley, and Interstate 64 from Kentucky to Virginia.
Because the snowstorm is still a few days away, there is still some uncertainty on exactly where the heaviest snow will fall, and how much will accumulate. For each of these travel corridors, we’ll let you know what our latest thinking is.
Winter Storm Jonas Forecast: Interstate 95
For the I-95 corridor from Boston to Washington, we are far more confident in a major snowstorm for the D.C. and Baltimore areas than we are for places farther north.
For those two cities, snowfall rates may peak at or above 1 inch per hour during the daylight hours Saturday. Sustained northeasterly winds may approach 30 mph at times, and gusts will be higher, leading to near-blizzard conditions. While the snow will likely be wet and not easily blown or drifted, portions of I-95 will probably be forced to shut down if those conditions materialize. Road crews simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with the snow, and visibility would be very poor.
Total snowfall accumulations could easily exceed one foot in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
The forecast is iffier as you move toward Philadelphia and points north. Winds from Delaware through Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be just as strong as Maryland and the District, but snow may not fall at such a rapid clip. There is still some question about the track of Winter Storm Jonas’s parent low, and this will affect the snowfall (and its duration) from Philly to Boston.
Nonetheless, driving conditions are likely to be treacherous during the storm from northern Delaware to New York City, and speed restrictions are likely along the New Jersey Turnpike.
Travel on Interstate 95 through southern New England is an even bigger question mark at this time. Tuesday’s computer forecast models began shunting the heaviest snow southward just enough to give southern New England some hope of escaping this storm with more manageable light to moderate snowfall. That is by no means settled, however, so continue to check for updated forecasts.
Winter Storm Jonas Forecast: Interstate 81
Interstate 81, a favorite alternate route for many Southerners driving to the Northeast, will likely be a no-go zone during Winter Storm Jonas.
Unlike some East Coast storms, this storm will already be well underway with a well-defined low pressure system by the time it crosses the Appalachians. There will be more than enough cold air in place to crank out snow across parts of the I-81 corridor Thursday night into Friday and early Saturday.
The main question is exactly where the northern and southern boundaries of the heaviest snow will be. In between, however, most of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley appears to be in line for a crippling snowstorm with amounts exceeding – and in some cases possibly doubling – the one-foot mark. Snowfall rates Friday and Friday night may reach 1 inch per hour, likely forcing occasional closures of at least some stretches of I-81 in Virginia.
Confidence in the forecast is lower across the segment from West Virginia through Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, which may or may not lie within the zone of heaviest snowfall. Confidence is also lower in far southwest Virginia and into East Tennessee, where rain may or may not cut into the snowfall potential. On that southern stretch of I-81, Jonas may first bring rain Thursday night and Friday followed by a change to light snow Friday night or Saturday on the back side of the storm.
Winds should not be as strong as they will be along the I-95 corridor, reducing the risk of blizzard conditions along I-81.
Winter Storm Jonas Forecast: Interstate 64
Travel on I-64 through West Virginia and western Virginia should be avoided Friday and Friday night. That mountainous stretch of highway, with its many sharp curves, will be extremely treacherous given heavy snowfall rates and temperatures well down into the 20s. Closures are likely.
To the west, this storm will likely bring a plowable snowfall along I-64 Thursday night and Friday over Kentucky, and potentially even farther west into southern Indiana. There is still some degree of uncertainty about the potential for higher amounts, which could set up in an east-west band along I-64 – but could just as well set up north or south of the highway, or not at all. Should a heavier band of snow line up along I-64, it could force parts of the highway to close.
East of the Appalachians in Virginia, conditions on I-64 will depend in large part on the exact track of Jonas’s parent low as it approaches the Atlantic seaboard. This, in turn, will determine where the rain/snow line sets up. Areas on the cold side of that transition zone could see extremely heavy snow while areas on the warm side of it see mostly rain.
As of this writing, that sharp transition has shifted farther south and east, leaving Richmond in line for potentially its heaviest snowfall in 33 years. Meanwhile, Norfolk will probably see only rain from Winter Storm Jonas. If this forecast holds, travel on I-64 may be difficult or impossible from Richmond westward on Friday night and Saturday.
Stay with The Weather Channel and weather.com as we continue to update the forecast for Winter Storm Jonas.