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What will the snowstorm later this week bring to the area?

Posted by David Epstein  December 30, 2013 09:00 PM

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By now, unless you are completely detached you have heard of the upcoming late week snowstorm. Let me get right to what I know and what we are still somewhat in the dark about.

Snow or rain?
This is going to be a cold storm, so nearly everyone, even Cape Cod, will see all snow from this system.

Fluffy or sticky?
The snow is going to be super light and fluffy, it will be blown around by the wind and pile up easily because it is so light. Cape Cod could see a wetter snow, but in general, this is a light and powdery event.

What about coastal flooding?
Throughout each month the height of the high tide changes. You have no doubt noticed in the summer, the seaweed line of the previous day's high tide isn't always the same. Sometimes the high water mark can vary three feet or more over a given month. The high tide Friday at noon is over 12 feet, nearly 3 feet higher than the one today. If the storm did become very intense, flooding would be an issue. I will know more about the intensity Tuesday and Wednesday.
tides boston.png

When does the snow start?
There could be a few flurries Tuesday afternoon, but those aren't related to the storm. On Thursday I expect some flurries or light snow to break out during the day. This won't amount to very much by dark. The bulk of the accumulating snow falls Thursday overnight and during Friday. I expect the storm to be over sometime Friday evening. Keeping in mind this timetable could be moved forward or back 6 hours.

How much snow?
This is of course the big question. When I look at making snowfall predictions I look at how much moisture the storm is expected to bring. Then I have to think about the weight of the snow coming from the moisture. A storm with say one inch of liquid moisture could leave 10 inches of snow if it's 32 degrees and nearly 20 inches if it's 16 degrees. We are going to be closer to the 16F degree reading so it won't take much moisture to give us over 6 inches of snow.

I know there are maps out there showing amounts ranging from 4 to 14 inches. I personally don't believe it's prudent to show an accumulation map 3 or 4 days before a storm. We all know there is the potential for moderate to major snow event. As the data becomes more conclusive, then I will put out my thinking for possible amounts.

The track of the storm is critical as the heaviest snow falls on the northwest (upper left) corner of a storm. If the storm is too far away, that corner ends up over the ocean, if it's too close, that corner hits New York or Chicago. How big the storm becomes is also a factor, a weak storm won't bring as much moisture or wind to the area. A stronger more organized storm would mean more snow, wind and beach erosion.
noreaster Friday.jpg

Could this miss us?
It’s unlikely we won't get any snow, but it's not necessarily going to be a foot or more either. Making a definitive prediction 4 days ahead in time isn't possible. There will be a storm, it's the track I just can't tell you yet. One model from today did have the storm going out to sea while another gives us a blockbuster storm. Still too many unknowns.

I have a flight out of Logan should I change it?
I have gotten many questions about travel Thursday and Friday. Past experience shows if this is going to be a big storm they will try to not have flights arriving Thursday night so equipment is not stuck here Friday. If the storm ends up big, then Friday would be the day most impacted. Flights will likely be close to normal for the first part of Thursday, with the caveat the airlines hate having planes stuck here. So sometimes they cancel well before the actual storm. If you want to be 100% safe, avoid travel the second part of Thursday and Friday. Again, remember, this is based on a Monday forecast and what ultimately happens could be really different.

What about the roads?
After the crazy commute a couple of weeks ago, no one wants to be stuck on the roads trying to get home. As it looks now, the Thursday morning commute will be fine, the evening commute will be difficult, but not horrible. The Friday commutes will be non-existent as there would be many inches of snow on the ground, schools will be cancelled etc.

Will there be school Thursday or Friday?
It's unlikely there will be any school cancellations Thursday. It's likely there will be delays or cancellations Friday. Obviously, I'll have a better handle on this in the coming days. Remember, it could be a small event, so have your kids do their homework.

When will you know more?
There are two major computer runs each day the American models come in first then the European . I get significant new information from each around 10PM and 2AM and again at 10AM and 2PM. This means the forecast can dramatically change twice each day. I usually won't update the forecast significantly until I see both models.

That's my latest thinking on the storm. An important update tomorrow. I am not staying up until 2AM to watch the European model arrive, so I'll check it out in the morning.

I'll be updating blogs right through the storm, so check back often and of course, follow me on Twitter @growingwisdom.com
Indoor flowers are a great way to chase away some of those winter doldrums. Check out this week's video on these wonderful indoor bulbs known as amaryllis.

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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