Region prepares for snow, bitter cold
By James M. Arnold, Weather Specialist
It looks as though earlier forecasts are on track, requiring little or no modification at this time. Southern New England will experience a strong to severe winter weather event, featuring heavy snow, strong winds and biting cold temperatures. The storm track continues to look like it will take this disturbance off to the northeast from the mid-Atlantic coast where it will pass in the vicinity of the “Benchmark” (a reference point in the ocean to the southeast of Nantucket Island located at 70 degrees west and 40 degrees north). This is a track that is favorable for a major snowstorm in southern New England, and this situation should be no exception. The National Weather Service has issued a “Blizzard Warning” for southeast Massachusetts including the Cape and the Islands for Tuesday afternoon through much of Wednesday afternoon. A “Winter Storm Warning” has been issued from the Springfield area eastward to the area under the Blizzard Warning. A “Winter Storm Watch” has been issued for the area to the west of the Winter Storm Warning area.
What this all means is that beginning this afternoon, snow will overspread Massachusetts but should remain on the light side until late afternoon or early evening when it will become steadier and heavier. Tonight will see snow becoming moderate to heavy and continue until early Wednesday morning, when it will taper off and end by about mid-morning here in central Massachusetts. Bitter cold temperatures will prevail throughout the storm, likely holding in the low teens. Winds will increase from the north northeast to 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 mph overnight, resulting in considerable blowing and drifting of the powdery snow. Travel will become nearly impossible at times as whiteout and “blizzard-like” conditions develop from time to time.
Snow totals for our area will range from 4 to 8 inches from the Route 2 corridor southeastward toward the Mass Pike west of Route 495. Along and south of the Mass Pike to Route 495 and Route 128 snowfall will be in the 8 to 12 inch range. Areas to the east and south of Route 128 will see about 10 to 14 inches, with isolated local areas of 18 inches possible, particularly along the south shore, the Cape and Islands, where ocean enhancement and banding of the precipitation likely will occur. In all areas away from the coast temperatures will be frigid, likely holding in the teens for the duration of the storm. Right along the coast, temperatures will hold in the low to mid 20s throughout the storm, but fall once the storm pulls away. Coastal areas will see the strongest winds, reaching 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 60 mph possible Tuesday night. The cold temperatures will likely prevent any major power outages as the snow will be light and powdery in all regions of the state and not stick to trees and wires. Tides are astronomically low right now, indicating that beach erosion on east facing beaches may be mostly minor or possibly moderate in some locations. Light to moderate freezing spray is forecast by the NWS as well as seas of 20 feet or more on offshore waters.
Following the storm we will see very cold temperatures through the rest of the week, with the next chance of a storm along about Saturday. It is too early to know how this next disturbance will treat our area, but the one thing that is sure, is that more very cold air that will approach central Massachusetts in the wake of that system. Our area could experience the coldest weather of the winter early next week. And it may hang on for the next two weeks or so if the current modelling guidance is correct. Please see the attached output from the WeatherBell site, which shows central Massachusetts averaging 15 to 18 degrees F below long term averages.
James M. Arnold is a Weather Specialist working with Shrewsbury Emergency Management Agency; town of Princeton; Worcester Emergency Communications and Emergency Management Agency; Southborough Emergency Management Agency; town of Grafton and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area
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