Winter Storm Saturn, Snowquester, or just the biggest snowstorm of the season—whatever you call it, it's headed for Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic Tuesday night.
Originating in northwest Canada, the storm system made quick work of much of the Midwest, burying parts of Minnesota and North Dakota in 10-inch snows, according to the National Weather Service. As of midday Tuesday, the storm is bearing down on Chicago, where high winds and the first few of the eight inches of snow expected have cancelled some 1,000 flights out of the area, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The fast-moving storm is expected to continue southeast and hit the mid-Atlantic Tuesday night. The nation's capital could receive anywhere from 3 to 8 inches, beginning after 7 p.m.
"Snow will spread into the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states into Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, with heavy snow possible across the mid-Atlantic during the day," the normally understated National Weather Service forecasts. The NWS added that "8 to 12 inches of snow will be possible across portions of the mid-Atlantic states, with higher amounts possibly exceeding 18 inches in the higher terrain of West Virginia."
The warmer-than-usual atmosphere in the mid-Atlantic likely means the storm will bring rain and wet snow, according to Weather Underground. The relatively balmy conditions for a winter storm could mean a small amount of wet, sloppy snow falls instead of the high amounts forecast.
The moist nature of the storm will also likely cause more power outages than would be usually expected, according to Pepco, a Washington area electrical utility.
"Heavy, wet snow; ice; and high winds can bring tree limbs into contact with power lines to cause power outages. Heavy rain and oversaturated soil can allow trees already weakened by previous storms to fall," Pepco said in a press release regarding the approaching storm.
The company said it had requested extra help from 250 crews from other utility companies, in addition to the hundreds of their current contractors, in preparation for the storm.
Most forecasts expect precipitation in the region to begin as rain and a wintry mix Tuesday night before changing to snow Wednesday. However one of NOAA's models predicted nearly 15 inches of snowfall in the District, according to Weather Underground.
The storm will likely cause major work travel disruptions. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, which dubbed the storm "Snowquester," expects many of the region's school districts to delay or cancel classes, and puts the chances of the federal government closing at 50 percent.
By Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the storm is expected to move off the coast, where it will likely churn up high waves and storm surges. Much of the mid-Atlantic coastline is under flood watch and gale warnings, which are issued for expected winds of 40 mph or more.
New England is also expected to be hit by the system, which the Weather Channel has named Winter Storm Saturn. The region is forecast to get between 2 to 4 inches of snow, as well as some rain and coastal flooding.