Afternoon update, 4:10 p.m.
The storm has been underway for several hours, and I’m sure most of you now realize why the meteorological community has been so concerned about this storm for several days.
From the downed trees to the flooding, both along the coast and inland, the storm is performing as expected. The strongest winds are now peaking, and we will begin to slowly see an abatement of the wind after dark. This doesn’t mean the wind is going to die down to calm, but, when we look at the peak gusts of the storm, they will have already occurred by 6 p.m.
The rain is going to change over to snow this evening, and the exact time of the changeover and how much moisture is left when it occurs will determine how much snow falls. Exactly how much remains the most difficult aspect of this storm to predict. I still think there are going to be a few spots that exceed expectations on snowfall, but, in other areas, the change will occur too late for accumulation.
There’s another high tide Friday just before midnight, and it’s forecast to be slightly higher than the one this afternoon. This means more coastal flooding and more damage. The good news is that by the time the tide occurs winds will have slowed a little bit and turned a little more northerly.
The high tide forecast has been brought down about 6 inches from earlier this morning. This means Friday night’s tides should be similar to the ones earlier and not much worse.
The rest of the overnight will feature the snow and remaining rain, and winds will continue to abate slowly. Notice on the loop below that the snow and rain will be ending around midnight. By morning it will just be cloudy, blustery, and raw.
Just how bad is this storm going to get?
We’ve heard everyone from the governor to FEMA weigh in, and it certainly seems like it’s going to be bad. But it’s important to remember in large nor’easters like this one, the coast takes the brunt of the storm. For those of you living away from the water, this becomes a wind, rain, and for some, a heavy wet snow event. While it will be significant, and at times unsettling, it won’t be devastating. For most, this is just an interruption in our usual lives.
A coastal storm was intensifying Friday morning off the New England coast. Credit: COD Weather
Coast takes the brunt of the storm
Most of the concern this morning is centered on the coastline. There’s a high tide coming up just before noon Friday, another one around midnight, and yet another Saturday during the early afternoon. All of these high tides will produce some level of flooding, with the potential for major flooding in at least two of them.
Over the past several decades, many of the most vulnerable local homes have either been lost to the sea or raised on stilts and reinforced, meaning we won’t be seeing a large number of homes damaged or destroyed like we did in the Blizzard of 1978, or even the “Perfect Storm” of 1991.
However, there will be areas of the coast that are cut off by rising water at high tide during the day Friday, Friday night, and Saturday. Since the wind and waves will be so strong even during low tide, the water level may not recede enough to allow evacuation in some places. This always remains the big wild card during weather events like this. Some businesses will also take on water during the high tide Friday and Saturday.
The rain is falling across the region Friday morning, and it will continue to get heavier and steadier as the day goes on, peaking throughout the afternoon and evening. I generally expect 1 to 3 inches of rain, with some isolated 4-inch amounts. That’s certainly enough to cause urban street and stream flooding as well as basement flooding for those susceptible to such things. If your basement doesn’t typically get wet in rain storms, it won’t in this one. The larger rivers won’t produce much flooding either.
If the winds get powerful enough to start bringing down tree branches, driving could get hazardous Friday. This will be especially true within 5 to 10 miles of the coast.
The winds are going to peak in the afternoon and the first part of the evening. This is when the most wind damage will occur and when power outages will likely increase. I expect that some coastal gusts will go over hurricane force, especially over Cape Cod and the Islands.
For those of you more than 10 miles from the coast, the winds will still be strong, gusting between 35 and 55 mph — strong enough to create scattered power outages.
What about snow?
There has already been some snow Friday morning over the higher terrain of Worcester, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, and snowfall there could be significant.
As the storm pulls farther east later Friday afternoon, I do expect enough cold air to work in from the north to change the rain to snow, even in Boston. This will be a heavy and wet snow that will stick to everything. The warm weather of the past couple of weeks has taken all the frost out of the ground, so it will be more difficult for snow to stick to the roads. If your area gets about 3 inches or more, downed tree branches and power outages could be a problem.
Travel will be difficult during the changeover, but this isn’t the type of storm that will make roads impassable.
The storm winds down overnight, with just some lingering light rain and snow into Saturday morning. Winds will continue to be strong, just less so than Friday afternoon.
Better weather arrives with some sunshine Sunday, but the pattern remains active into next week with another chance of some additional storms.