Chicago could be digging out from under as much as 10 inches (25cm) by Sunday as the snow is just getting under way along the East Coast. At least six inches could fall across a wide area including Washington, Philadelphia and New York, said Mr Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster with the United States Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland.
Areas in the Northeast Corridor will likely see even more than that, as heavier bands fall west of the storm’s centre.
“It looks like it could be a pretty good storm,” Mr Oravec said. “There is definitely going to be some heavy snows from this event.”
Winter storm warnings and weather advisories stretch from North Dakota to Virginia and North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
President Joe Biden is monitoring the approaching storm and ensuring federal agencies are coordinating with states on the response, the White House said.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wrote on Twitter that that “the snow, rain, freezing rain, ice accumulations, and high winds will pose challenging road conditions statewide”.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser also urged residents to prepare for the snowstorm.
Winter has been missing for the most part in the Northeast this year. In New York, Manhattan’s Central Park has had above-normal temperatures for most of the season and has received 10.6 inches of snow to date, 1 inch below normal. Almost all of that came from a single December storm.
In contrast, parts of California have seen heavy snow. Storms hobbling Chicago and New York-area airports can lead to major delays and cancellations across the US.
As of 4.50pm local time, 133 flights in or out of Chicago’s two airports had been cancelled for Sunday, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. Some 121 flight cancellations were posted for Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Sunday.
Winter weather can also snarl road and rail traffic and cause power outages. Snow should start in the nation’s capital early Sunday, later in the day in New York, and continue through the night, Mr Oravec said.
Snow will start in Boston on Monday, where as much as 10 inches could fall, with suburban areas getting a foot or more, according to the weather service.
The authorities warned that the approaching system could be a “long duration” event for the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.