Winter is beating back spring’s hasty advance, hurling a tempest at the Northeast so formidable even tropical South Florida will feel a robust punch of arctic air.
The late-season nor’easter had 10 states under a winter storm warning this morning with threats of snow from Virginia to Maine, coastal flooding and gale-force winds.
The National Weather Service in New York City reported snow and sleet this morning with temperatures in the 30-degree range. In Boston, more than 2 inches of snow were reported as of 11 a.m. with blizzard warnings still in place for areas including Hartford, Portsmouth and Waterbury. Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy signed a proclamation banning travel on state roads until further notice as western areas of the state reported 11 inches of snow by noon.
A front attached to the late-season system is expected to finish pushing through South Florida this morning, dragging the longest cold spell since late January into Palm Beach County. Overnight, a squall line ahead of the front triggered tornado warnings in Palm Beach County and a possible touch down in Plantation, which the National Weather Service is investigating.
While today could reach 80 degrees, overnight lows will dip into the 50s along the coast and 40s inland.
Wednesday and Thursday daytime highs could be as much as 10 degrees below normal as they struggle to reach 70.
“It will be tough to get any sympathy from folks up north who are dealing with really frigid temperatures,” said Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “We’ll certainly be cooler and a little breezy for the next couple of days, but they are going to get a pretty good storm.”
Fisher said this week will likely provide the longest stretch of cold weather South Florida has seen since late January with temperatures staying cool through at least Saturday.
“It’s just going to dig in and hang around a few days before it gets kicked out of here,” Fisher said.
Travelers at Palm Beach International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport faced dozens of canceled flights today to areas in the Northeast including New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Nationwide, more than 6,400 flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.
Winter has had a hard time deciding whether it was ready to give way to spring.
On March 1 — the meteorological end of winter — The Washington Post reported the city’s famed cherry blossoms might have the earliest peak bloom date on record because of mild winter temperatures. Temperatures this past week reached 74 degrees at Reagan National Airport – 21 degrees above normal.
West Palm Beach hit 88 degrees on Feb. 19, breaking the 2012 record of 87 degrees and making it feel more like June than the dead of winter.
But meteorologists warned not to count winter out just yet. Even with astronomical spring beginning Monday, there might still be a few cool days.
“By all means, if people thought the winter was over, this is certainly proof that it is not,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist with Pennsylvania-based Accuweather. “This will be one of the coldest air masses to actually invade Florida this winter season.”
And it might make history in the Northeast, according to Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger with Weather Underground.
The two March storms to beat are the Great Blizzard of 1888 and the 1993 Storm of the Century that dropped snow from Florida’s Panhandle to Syracuse, N.Y.
“Some of the most memorable, epic nor’easters on record have occurred at the tail end of the winter snow season,” Henson wrote in a Friday blog.
Anticipating widespread power outages in the Northeast, Florida Power & Light sent more than 300 employees to communities in Long Island to help restore electricity.
The heaviest snow is expected this morning through the afternoon with rates of up to 4 inches an hour.
In Boston, winds are forecast to increase throughout the day to gusts of up to 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent with new snow accumulations of up to 18 inches possible. In Philadelphia, crews began treating some area roadways on Sunday. The city could see 6 to 12 inches of snow.
Forecasters in the Mount Holly, N.J., office of the National Weather Service asked people to stay in their homes between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. If travel is unavoidable, they are advising that people take a “safety packet” of warm clothing, bottled water and a fully charged cell phone.
“No unnecessary travel,” they wrote.
The storm forced the White House to postpone German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit, which was scheduled for today. President Donald Trump cast some doubt on the dire meteorological warnings but said the government is prepared.
“Let’s hope it’s not going to be as bad as some people are predicting,” he said in the first-ever meeting of his Cabinet. “Usually, it isn’t.”
For South Florida, Kottlowski said this might not be the last of winter’s reach, but he’s not expecting any more cold fronts of this strength.
“There won’t be anything quite as impressive as this,” he said. “This cold front, this is a true winter cold front.”
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers Julius Whigham II and Kristina Webb contributed to this story.