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Winter storm warning for heavy snow, wind and cold

Posted by David Epstein  January 1, 2014 04:27 PM

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A significant nor’easter is poised to hit the region beginning early Thursday and continuing through the first part of Friday. The majority of the storm will hit after 4PM Thursday. This storm will bring with it all the typical pieces of a winter storm including cold, wind, snow and some coastal flooding.
nor easter.jpg

Looking at new data this afternoon, I am sticking with the forecast of a significant storm, with the greatest impact along the coast. All areas will see snow coming in two waves, one early Thursday and one overnight. Before the details, a quick story. I was at friends for New Year’s Eve. Another couple, whom I had never met, remarked how much they like reading my blog. They liked how I didn’t, their word, “hype” the weather. We talked about my need to be wary of the line between the seriousness of some New England storms and those more typical in nature. I found the conversation helpful, as are many of your comments, in how I cover winter storms and all the weather which impacts our lives.

The upcoming storm, which will in some places produce heavy snow amounts, will still end up in the more typical category. None the less, this is a nor’easter and they all present their own characteristics and forecast challenges. Let’s break it down.

What is a blizzard?
The reason I mention the word blizzard is because I suspect it's is going to be used during the storm and it can scare people. A blizzard is a condition, not an amount of snow. It means the visibility, how far you can see, reduces to a quarter miles or less because of either snow falling or snow coming out of the clouds with winds of 35 miles per hour or more. If this occurs, you have blizzard conditions, if it lasts for 3 hours or more, you have a blizzard. There was a blizzard in the Midwest last week, with no snow, it’s truly about the wind and how far you can see due to the snow. If you hear the word mentioned, it’s certainly serious, but doesn’t indicate anything about snow totals.

How much snow?
The biggest impact from this storm will be the snow. First, amounts are going to build over a long time. Along the coast, it could snow for 30 hours or more. As the cold air rushes over the ocean water it will pick up moisture and created bands of locally heavier snows. These bands can set up over parts of the south shore and these are the locations most likely to exceed a foot, if that is going to happen. I have noted the favored areas, but other towns can be involved as well. Generally an 8-12 inch storm for most areas is the best forecast right now. Remember this comes over many hours, with a lull during the midday Thursday and most of the snow (4-8 inches) at night Thursday. See the map for more specifics.

Snow boston.jpg

When will you update again?
I will do another big update later this afternoon, with periodic updates throughout the storm. I update often on Twitter @growingwisdom. Feel free to chat with me there.

Why is there more snow forecast than yesterday?
I have upped the snow totals based on two pieces of information. First, the moisture predicted is higher and second the storm will last a bit longer and be more organized. Interestingly the European model has less snowfall predicted overall, closer to a 6-8 inch storm. (Still a storm of course) There’s time to still revise if new information arrives later today. Because this is such a long lasting storm, I suspect a few more changes even during Thursday as I see how the storm evolves.

Will the snow be light and fluffy and will there be any rain?
The snow will be light and fluff and easy to move around. The snow will be a bit wetter on Cape Cod and especially on Nantucket and the Vineyard. By the end of the storm the final inches will be light and fluffy even 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. The strong winds could create blizzard conditions for a time. The highest probability of this occurring would be along the immediate coast.

How about the coastal flooding threat?
There are two high tides, midnight and noon on Friday the storm will affect. I expect the main impacts to be splash-over and beach erosion. This isn’t going to be storm which creates widespread moderate or major coastal flooding. I have added a tide chart below.
Tides.png

How will air travel be affected by the nor’easter?
I still expect the storm to delay flights Thursday and Friday, especially in the morning. Because the snow is going to be falling over such a long period of time, the airport crews should be able to keep on top of clearing the runways. The other issue from this storm impacting travel will be the wind. The wind will blow the snow all over the tarmac and if strong enough, wind itself can create delays. This shouldn’t be a storm where the airports in Boston or Providence close. The storm will have less of an impact to Manchester and Worcester airports.

Will the kids have school Thursday and Friday?
This is the million dollar question for many of you. I would certainly plan on school cancellations and early releases. Since the bulk of the snow will fall post 3PM Thursday, it would be more likely schools are open tomorrow and not Friday. However, some school districts cancel school for any amount of snow, (I’ll refrain from my usual commentary) so if yours is one of those districts, your kids may have 2 more days of winter break.

When does this start and end again?
You will see some snow in the pre-dawn hours tomorrow and light to moderate snow at times during the day Thursday. It won’t snow at the same rate all day and at times, it may completely stop. Late in the day and overnight Thursday the snow will be moderate to heavy at times. This is when the core of the storm will move into the region. The snow ends from west to east Friday and should exit Worcester by 11AM, Boston around noon and the Cape around 1PM. I will fine tune those times later today.
There are several radar images below to help you see when the storm will be occurring. These are still forecasts, not written in stone.
7AM Thursday
7AM Radar.jpg
1PM Radar Thursday (lull)
1pm Radar.jpg
1AM Friday
1am Radar.jpg
Noon on Friday (storm ending)
noon friday Radar.jpg

How cold will it be during the storm?
Temperatures are going to become very cold Thursday night and Friday. I expect highs on Thursday to reach the 20s, but fall through the teens and into the single numbers Thursday night and stay in that range much of 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.

Overall how bad will this storm be?
Everyone has different ways in which they judge these storms. Overall, this will be a typical January nor’easter. 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 moderate or major coastal flooding won’t make this storm memorable for coastal folks. It’s New England, we get snowstorms, this is one of them, make some hot chocolate and enjoy it.

Indoor Flowers You Can Grow Easily
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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