A stormy February is just getting started

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 09:  A woman walks in the middle of the street in whiteout conditions as a winter storm bears down on February 9, 2017 in Boston, United States.
A woman walks in the middle of the street Thursday in whiteout conditions in Boston. – Scott Eisen / Getty Images

February is, more often than not, a stormy month. And this year is no exception.

The jet stream, which is the river of air at about 30,000 feet, controls how storms flow across this part of the planet. For the next seven to 10 days, the configuration of this fast-moving belt of wind will allow several storms to ride its configuration and bring several opportunities for snow, rain and wind to the area.

First up in this series of storms is a weak disturbance for early Saturday. As this passes we will see several hours of snow, amounting to between one and three inches. There may be a bit more in the higher elevations and a bit less on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The snow arrives after midnight and ends Saturday between 8 and 10 a.m. There will be some sunshine in the afternoon with highs in the 30s.

Light snow will end Saturday morning. —Dave Epstein
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Another storm drops down into the upper flow Sunday. This storm has more energy and eventually will become a very powerful ocean storm, moving offshore into the Gulf of Maine east of Portland.

The exact timing of the intensification and the precise location of the storm will determine what happens in southern New England. I see two general possibilities for the late part of the weekend and Monday. I think each is possible right now, which is why so many forecasts are changing.

via GIPHY

One area of snow affects the region Saturday morning with a more important storm possible Sunday night and Monday. Credit: Tropical Tidbits

Scenario 1: Storm develops far enough away to spare us a big storm.

In this case, we will see a brief period of snow Sunday afternoon, changing to rain and then back to some light snow Sunday night or Monday.  It will become windy Monday, but the impact will be minimal. Any snowfall would be light, although travel would be slow Monday morning.

Scenario 2: Storm develops rapidly just to the south and east of Boston.

In this case, precipitation would still begin as snow Sunday and change to rain, but it would then change back to heavy snow Sunday night and Monday. Eastern Massachusetts would see damaging winds and heavy snow Monday. Areas north and west of Boston could see snow amounts equal to Thursday’s storm.

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A major storm will form no matter what. The issue is a difference of 100 miles in the placement of this storm, which has enormous implications for all of New England. This will not be resolved until later Saturday or even Sunday morning.  You will undoubtedly hear many different forecasts for the late part of the weekend over the next 24 hours. I will be updating the situation here and on Twitter @growingwisdom as new information becomes available.

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