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Heavy snow overnight, blizzard warning and coastal flood warning continue

Posted by David Epstein  January 2, 2014 09:00 PM

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The blizzard warning continues overnight for much of the Massachusetts coastline, but doesn't include the city of Boston. This warning extends all the way north to Rockland, Maine. Blizzard warnings mean visibility will lower to a quarter mile or less for 3 hours because of the strong winds which will blow the snow. The snow will be heavy at times overnight until around 6AM or 7AM. The heaviest snow will fall east of Route 495, but all areas will see snow.
Mass Blizzard.jpg

On the radar image below I have put a rectangle around the area of precipitation moving northward overnight. It's this big area which will bring several hours of heavy snow to the region, especially within 30 miles or so of the coastline.

east coast radar.jpg

Topsfield has already picked up 15 inches, Rowley 16 inches of snow and other areas have seen near a foot. If these locations get another 8 or 10 overnight, they will easily close in on 20 to 24 inches of total accumulation.

While there has been some unpredictable and amazing snow totals thus far, most of the area has seen 3-7 inches. I have augmented the accumulation map to move the area of heaviest snow further into Essex and parts of Middlesex Counties. It’s impossible to tell you exactly how much snow you will see, because these bands are like summertime thunderstorms. If your house in under one of the bands, you are going to be at the high end of the snow total or even exceed the prediction by a bit.

When the storm is over, I believe this will end up being a memorable storm for parts of eastern Massachusetts, but just a typical snowstorm for most of the state. It will be interesting to see where these bands start forming overnight and how long different areas stay under the most intense bands. My highest predicted totals will be the exception, not the rule.

Snow bands can form and reform over the same area. Notice on the image below there are areas of heavy snow (green) and lighter snow (blue) just a few miles from one another. We can forecast that bands will form, but not the accurate placement of them.
radar now.jpg

I’ll be tweeting radar images showing where the bands are and where they are expected to move.ow.jpg When you view a radar image, look for the green areas, those will be places with the heavy snow of 1 or 2 inches per hour. This image shows the heaviest snow running southwest from Boston.

Travel isn't recommended the rest of the night and through 7AM Friday. After 7AM the heaviest of the snow will be winding down and improvement to roads will take place. It's going to take all day to clear some side streets in those areas that end up with the highest totals.
New snow totals.jpg
When will you update again?
I will give regular frequent updates throughout the storm. I update often on Twitter @growingwisdom. Feel free to chat with me there.

How about the wind and power outages?
The wind will be blustery and reach gusts over 35 miles per hour, mostly along the coast. These speeds alone are not enough to cause power issues. Because the snow will be so light, it's not going to stick to the wires, so I am not concerned about the power. Of course, there is always the possibility in any storm of isolated power outages.

How about the coastal flooding threat?
Each high tide cycle from now through Friday at noon is astronomically a high tide. This means the tides are higher than normal anyway, even without a storm. The maps below show the areas most vulnerable to minor to moderate flooding during this storm. These are predictive maps and are subject to change. The actual height of the water will be different when it occurs, but this gives coastal residents a good idea of what to expect.Tides.png
Coastal flood warnings.jpg
How will air travel be affected by the nor'easter?
Airports are clearly greatly affected by the snow. Logan Airport has suspended travel from 8PM this evening until Noon Friday. How the storm unfold overnight will determine if that noontime start does happen.

When will the storm end?
The heaviest snow will exit the area between 5AM and 8AM. The progression of the back edge of the snow will mark steadily eastward so by 10AM any leftover snow should be over in Boston and by noon or 1PM the last of the snow should be exiting Cape Cod. The image below is for 8AM and give you an idea of where the heavy snow, light snow and back edge will be during that hour.
8 AM Friday mass.jpg

Will the kids have school Friday?
Many schools in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island have announced closures for Friday. Check your local area to see what the status of your school system is for Friday.

How cold will it be during the storm?
Temperatures are going to become very cold tonight and Friday. Temperatures will continue to slowly fall much of the rest of the evening and will be bitter cold by sunrise Friday. If you have issues with pipes freezing in cold weather you should do whatever you normally do to prevent that from occurring. If you leave your water dripping slowly, the movement of the water won't allow it to freeze. It's worth the money considering the alternative.

The wind is going to make it feel even colder than the actual temperature readings. Some towns will see wind chills reach 20 below and there could be a wind chill advisory issued for the cold. This is dangerous cold, I don't use that adjective often, but this cold is not something we see every winter.

Overall how bad will this storm be?
In many ways this is a classic storm, but everyone has different criteria for how they judge these storms. The over foot of snow before the core of the storm even has really started is noteworthy. Overall, this will be a typical January nor'easter. The blizzard warning makes it more serious for those driving tonight in those areas. The long duration will make it difficult if you don't like driving in snow, because there will be so many hours of snow on the roads. The length of time it will take the snow to occur and the light weight will make it easy to clear. The lack of widespread moderate or major coastal flooding won't make this storm memorable for coastal folks. I think one of the more notable aspects of the storm will be how much snow falls at such cold temperatures. It's not often we see significant snow with temperatures so cold, I am really interested to see just how dry the snow actually is especially at the end of the storm, when it's the coldest.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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