Seattle Snow Storm
Joshua Richardson of Seattle slides down Virginia Street in a laundry basket in Seattle, after heavy snowfall in the Puget Sound Region. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

So where is all the snow already?

Snowfall in the Northwest is not uncommon in winter months, but huge blizzards and traffic-crippling conditions are more typical of the Northeast. But so far this winter, people in the Northeast have barely seen any of the white stuff.

While Washington State and Oregon are getting pounded with the region's worst blizzard in decades -- Seattle is calling it the worst in nearly 30 years -- New Yorkers and other in the Northeast have seen virtually no snowflakes this winter in what is being called a snow drought.

Paul Pastelok, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, said the Northeast is not getting snow because the jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air thousands of feet up in the atmosphere that separates cold air to the north from warm air to the south, is not behaving normally.

Instead of hugging the Canadian border, and maybe even hooking south over the Great Plains, the jet stream is moving north into Canada. This means colder temperatures are largely stuck and prevented from flowing south, where they could mix with precipitation and cause seasonally typical amounts of snow in the Northeast.

The snow fall in the Northwest this year, projected by AccuWeather to hit 14 inches, results from a combination of high moisture and just cold enough temperatures.

At the heart of the Northeast's snow drought is the polar vortex, a cyclone of Arctic air that rages in the atmosphere above the North Pole in winter months.

Pastelok said the vortex is settled right above the pole where it does not help push the jet stream south. That is going to change, though, in the next several weeks, he said. Already there is evidence that the vortex may be shifting from its position, which could bring with it some colder temperatures.

It's going to feel more and more like winter, he said.

New Yorkers and indeed most of the Northeast could receive snow within 15 to 30 days, he said, but the region's coastal communities should not expect above-average snowfall. Parts of the Appalachians, Pennsylvania, the Catskill Mountains and New England, however, should.