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Snow this afternoon becomes heavy overnight

Posted by David Epstein  January 2, 2014 12:10 PM

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Snow continues to move in from the ocean and is moderate along parts of the coast. While there is a lull in some places, others are seeing snow accumulating in the 2 to 4 inch range by mid-afternoon. Areas around Boston, Quincy and along the water will tend to see the highest totals today. The blizzard warning is still in effect for tonight for the south shore. There is a winter storm warning for heavy snow and wind elsewhere.
The image below shows where it's snowing as of mid-morning. It really depends where you are as to how much, if any, snow is falling.
9AM band.jpg

Blizzard warning.jpg
What is a blizzard?
When you hear the word blizzard mentioned with this storm, 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 being blown around on the ground and/or snow coming out of the clouds. This must occur with winds of 35 miles per hour or more. If these conditions last for 3 hours or longer, 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. A blizzard is certainly serious, but doesn't indicate anything about snow totals. The weather service has issued a blizzard warning for the expectation of blizzard conditions Thursday night and early Friday.

How much snow?
Generally, this is a 6-12 inch snowstorm with up to 16 inches of snow along parts of the coastline. When I use the word, coastline, it's the immediate 10 to 15 miles adjacent to the water. The high totals will be especially true for those areas along the water south of Boston and the north shore. If you look at the big picture, east of Worcester will be snowier than areas west,but it's a snowstorm for everyone. See my accumulation map for more details.
Morning update snow boston.jpg
heaviest totals2.jpg

Some areas could see less snow than predicted in the central part of the state. This is because they will be further from the ocean storm.

When does this start and end?
Snow fell lightly overnight and the bands of snow are still falling, without much accumulation, mostly north of the Massachusetts Turnpike. For the daylight hours, through 4 PM snow will be very light or non-existent. Some of you might think the storm is a bust, since there will be so little accumulation during the day, be patient, it will arrive. (I hope, otherwise I have completely missed this forecast).

I will be tweeting updates about the pause in the snow since it's a more immediate way to communicate. The break in the snow will give those of you who hate driving in snow a chance to get around.

The pause in the action will not be even across the area. This means while areas west of Boston are still waiting for the main slug of snow, the coast will see it accumulating. As winds come off the water, Boston, the north shore and south shore will likely still see some snow in the air from something we call ocean effect snow. This type of snow can be quite localized, so it the pause in the action might be very notable over metro-west, but less evident along parts of the coast.

The snow resumes in coverage and intensity for everyone around sunset and then the bulk of the accumulating snow falls overnight.

There are several radar images below to help you see when the storm will be occurring.
11 AM radar.jpg

1AM Friday
1am Radar.jpg
Noon on Friday (storm ending)
noon friday Radar.jpg

Where is the storm now?

We have two areas of snow that will affect us from today through midday Friday. Most likely you have heard the term "long duration" storm associated with this event. Area one which brought the snow overnight and will continue today, came from the west. We must wait for the main area of moisture to move in from the ocean late today to see the bulk of the snow. You can see these two areas clearly on the map below.
surface map for storm.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 1.png
coastal flood 2.png
How will air travel be affected by the nor'easter?
The snow is not only occurring in New England, but south and west as well. This is impacting flights in and out of our local airports and will continue to do so through midday Friday. When the lull in the snow occurs Thursday, there will likely be more flight activity. The wind and snow will make travel in an out of both Logan and T.F. Green difficult overnight Thursday and Friday

Will the kids have school Thursday and Friday?
There are already school closings and delays for both days. Check your favorite source for closings. While the kids might be cheering now, they won?t be in late June.

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.
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.

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. 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.

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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