A major winter storm will dump at least a foot of snow in the region from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning, the National Weather Service predicts.
“We’re looking at a pretty big storm system,” weather service meteorologist Jared Klein said Monday.
It will also be cold, with temperatures in the 20s, meaning it will be an all-snow event and snow will quickly stick to frozen surfaces, making travel hazardous.
“It’s going to stick right away on the roads,” Klein said. “Expect pretty bad road conditions.”
The weather service issued a storm watch that states “travel could be very difficult to impossible.”
The storm will start Wednesday afternoon, though the precise timing is not clear, Klein said. The intensity of the storm could increase around the time of the evening commute, which could be very difficult, he said.
The storm will continue overnight and start to wind down early Thursday, according to Klein.
The Thursday morning commute could be challenging as well, he said.
The weather service has high confidence that a significant winter storm will affect Northeast Pennsylvania, but a last-minute change in the storm track could increase or lessen the storm’s impact, Klein said.
Predictions as of Monday afternoon called for the worst storm impacts to be felt in southern Luzerne County and the Poconos, though Scranton and Wilkes-Barre are expected to receive a major snowfall.
If the track shifts to the north and west, the valley cities could become part of the bullseye of the storm, in which case much more than a foot of snow is possible, Klein said.
On the other hand, there is a slight chance the track will shift to the south and east, which could spare the region from the worst of the storm, he said.
In that scenario, a tight gradient or cutoff could be set up, in which areas separated by just a few miles would see a wide range in snowfall totals, with the higher totals to the south.
The storm will likely break the one-day snowfall record for Dec. 16 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. The record is 3 inches, set in 1980.
The highest one-day total snowfall in December at the airport is 12.2 inches, set in 1969. It is possible this week’s storm could break that record, though some of the total accumulation will likely happen early Thursday morning.
The highest one-day snowfall total ever recorded at the airport was 22.1 inches, on March 14, 2017.
This week’s storm is not likely to break that record, but it will be the largest snowstorm the region has seen since then, if forecasts hold true.