A "potential historic winter storm" may dump 2 feet of snow on Boston and eastern Massachusetts as it makes its way up the Atlantic coast, leaving 10 inches or more in New York City.
Eighteen to 24 inches (46 to 61 centimeters) of snow may fall in Boston, and the city has an 85 percent chance of receiving at least 12 inches from the storm that is expected to arrive in two days, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
"A potential historic winter storm and blizzard is expected to drop 1 to 2 feet of snow across much of the region Friday into Saturday," the weather service said in a bulletin. "The worst of the storm will be Friday night into Saturday. Snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour possible. Travel may become nearly impossible."
The storm arrives on almost the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978, which killed 99 people, destroyed 2,000 homes, drove 10,000 residents into shelters and paralyzed eastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island for a week, according to the weather service.
From 1992 to 2011, winter storms caused $28.2 billion in damage, making them the third-worst type of natural disaster behind hurricanes and tornadoes and thunderstorms, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
The weather service posted a blizzard watch in eastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island from Feb. 8 to Feb. 9. A winter storm watch has been posted from Maine to northern New Jersey, including New York City.
"We have come to the consensus that eastern New England will be experiencing blizzard conditions late Friday into Saturday morning," said Paul Walker, an expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
New York may receive 6 to 10 inches from the storm, which will affect the area from late tomorrow through Feb. 9. Areas north and west of the city, including Passaic County in New Jersey, and Westchester, Orange and Putnam counties in New York, may receive 10 to 18 inches along with a quarter-inch of ice, according to the weather service.
Northeastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey may receive as much as 20 inches.
Large amounts of snow will depend on the near-perfect timing of an influx of cold air mixing with moisture coming up from the South, Rob Carolan, a meteorologist and founder of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire, said by telephone..
South of New York City, the storm is expected to be mainly rain. There is an 80 percent chance of rain in Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey, for Feb. 8, the weather service said.
One component of the possible storm is spreading 5 to 6 inches of snow over eastern Wisconsin today, according to the agency. A winter storm warning and advisory extend along the Wisconsin coastline of Lake Michigan.
Another part is bringing rain and thunderstorms to Texas and Louisiana.
Snow has been relatively rare in the Northeast this season. Since Oct. 1, 7.4 inches have fallen in New York's Central Park, 6.4 inches fewer than normal.
In Boston, 9.6 inches have fallen since Dec. 1, 14.3 inches below normal, according to the weather service. The blizzard 35 years ago raged from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7, 1978.