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Big ocean storm will have some impact this week

Posted by David Epstein  March 5, 2013 09:07 AM

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Late last month I wrote about how the first part of March would end up being chilly and somewhat stormy. Now, five days into the month, this is proving true for much of the country. Today we are watching an area of low pressure move out of the Ohio valley and head for the mid-Atlantic coast. As this storm emerges off the coast, it will bring heavy amounts of precipitation in its path. Where temperatures are cold enough, snow will fall. The hype around this latest storm is being exacerbated by the fact it is going to impact Washington,DC and north to coastal areas that were hit by Sandy last fall. DC Snow.pngThe projected path of this storm will bring coastal flooding from the Delmarva Peninsula to parts of the south coast of New England. I'll be updating my weather forecasts on Twitter at @growingwisdom please follow me there.

How much water?
Flooding is an interesting term that we should look at a bit closer. When a flood warning is issued, it means that the water is going to exceed a specified height by some amount. The critical question to ask is, by how much? In the spring, flood warnings are often issued for several town along the Charles River such as of Dover, Massachusetts. These warnings mean that the water will come up high enough to overflow the banks of the river. Even if the water exceeds the banks by only one inch, the river is said to be "in flood". However, that example would do nothing more than add a bit of water to a few back yards. The same is true for the ocean. Flood warnings are issued when the tides or wave action will exceed a given level. The devil is in the details. You might hear that a flood warning is issued for Cape Cod, but the reality is that the water rises only several inches higher than the highest tides. What to listen for is whether the flooding will be minor, moderate, major or catastrophic. Note how much higher than normal the tides are forecast. Too often the flood warning ends up as a headline, when in reality it isn't worthy of one.

Our latest storm
Now, we have another storm to impact southern New England. There are coastal concerns because of a predicted long duration of onshore winds. However, while there might be pictures of beaches being eroded and even some homes in danger, again for the majority of people, this is a non-event. That’s what makes these coastal storms so challenging to convey. Consider the overall population and that most people don’t live on the water. Storms like this can cause serious amounts of beach erosion and change the configuration of the shoreline. They can, in some cases, destroy homes. However, those are the exceptions, not the rule. Flooding looks to be minor to moderate from this storm, but not a big impact.
March 6th to 8th 2013 storm.png

This morning I am confident that a major ocean storm will form and that heavy amounts of precipitation will move into parts of southern New England. Forecasts you hear are going to range from a big rain storm to a foot of snow. This is because of the wide spread of the data, the models, meteorologists use to forecast these storms. If you don’t want to know all the ins and outs and various scenarios of what may happen Wednesday night through Friday, stop reading here.

As is usually the case, we have two camps of forecasts for the weekend. Camp one is the American model. In this camp the big ocean storm moves very far to the north and brings heavy amounts of precipitation and warm air off the ocean. Camp two is the Europeans and their models. rex block new England.pngThis camp shows the big ocean storm moving far enough north to bring us precipitation, but keeps the warm air just far enough offshore to bring snow to the region. The two camps can’t figure out if a weather system to our north, acting as a block to the storm, will hold the storm away or not. A difference in 50 miles will make a huge difference to what you wake up to Thursday and Friday morning.

There is a saying in this business when dealing with models and that saying is that “the trend is your friend”. This means that if you look at the trend of the models, ultimately what happens is usually leaning in that direction. The trend of each new set of weather models has been for this storm to have a greater impact on New England, not less. I am thinking that we are impacted with precipitation from Wednesday night through early Friday. The greatest chance for accumulating snow will come and night Wednesday and Thursday when temperatures are colder. This time of the year, it becomes harder for snow to stick on the roads, unless we have very cold air present, which won’t be the case.

Any snow that does fall will be heavy and wet and because there will be wind with this storm, I am already thinking about the potential for power outages where snow does fall. It’s too early to speculate more about this right now, but I will be evaluating that possibility closer later today and if the heavy snow scenario starts to look more likely, the power issues will be a factor. The greatest snow threat will be west of Boston and towards the Worcester hills.

The weekend looks quite nice with temperatures in the 40s and drier conditions. That is just a break in the pattern, not a change. There is another storm of rain or snow likely for later next week.

Gardening this week
Depending on how aggressive you want to be in the garden, March does begin planting season. Fava beans, peas, lettuce, radish, carrots, and other cold weather crops can be planted by the end of the month. Inside, you can start many of your seedlings this month. I generally start my tomatoes in the first couple of weeks of March, which is about 8 weeks before they will go into the ground. Early this month is also the time to prune your blueberry bushes. In this week’s video I show you how to keep your blueberry bushes healthy and yielding big, juicy berries.

I'll be updating my weather forecasts on Twitter at @growingwisdom please follow me there.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com 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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