By James M. Arnold, Weather Specialist
Region – Although we have a lull in snowfall for now, it will redevelop during the late afternoon and should continue unabated until around dawn Tuesday. Snow will become moderate to occasionally heavy tonight and continue throughout the day tomorrow before tapering off and ending early Tuesday morning. Most of the snowfall rates will be in the light to moderate range with some heavy bursts, but over a 42 hour period, a lot of snow will accumulate. Given current conditions and how I expect them to play out over the course of the storm it looks like the early snow estimates are on the conservative side. All of central Massachusetts looks to be the target for between 16 and 24 inches of snow (12 to 20 inches more after the 4.2 inches that fell last night) and there could be some isolated areas in central and northeast Massachusetts approaching 30 inches.
A number of factors play into this. There is an arctic front sliding off to our south and along it will travel another relatively weak wave disturbance, much like the one that deposited the 4.2 inches of snow on Shrewsbury overnight. As the next one approaches and snow redevelops during the late afternoon, it should give us a lot more snow before it is gone. Although this looks like it should be a rather routine event, but there are several reasons it will not be. First of all, there will be some intensification of the storm due to the dynamics between the front and the storm. Others factors include overrunning caused by a long duration and long distance easterly flow, lifting of the air caused by it rising up and over the east side of the Worcester hills, exactly where the coastal front sets up and the fluff factor.
Tomorrow, the wind may become a factor as it increases from the northeast to 10 to 15 mph with gusts approaching 30 mph in general across our region. Though not at destructive velocities, it will be enough to cause blowing snow in most areas and some drifting in exposed areas. Travel should become difficult if not impossible during much of tomorrow due to snow covered roads and low visibility from falling and blowing snow. Along the coast as one might expect, the wind will be a bit stronger and the snow a heavier, wetter variety than we see here. There, a mix of snow, sleet and rain is possible and brief change to all rain is possible. Because of this, overall snow totals will be lower than inland areas. Still I am expecting at least 3 to 6 inches on the outer Cape, up to 10 inches near the canal and not too far inland depths will reach 16 to 24 inches. As always, the combination of heavy wet snow and winds which are expected to be 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph bring the threat of some tree and power line damage with isolated power outages possible. Tides are astronomically low for the next few days and little or no coastal splashover is expected, but there will be some minor to moderate erosion of east facing beaches.
When the storm pulls away from our area skies will become partly cloudy and it will be windy from the northwest, and cold. We have a decent day to begin with Wednesday before we see clouds increase as the next system approaches the greater Shrewsbury area. It is too early to talk about what impact this system might have on central Massachusetts, but as the National Weather Service notes, it will serve to delay the onset of the extreme cold for the end of the week.
Again, another 1.5 to 2 feet of snow on roofs will likely become problematic. Also a problem due to the massive snow banks is the location of fire hydrants. Please clear snow from hydrants in your locations if they have not already been cleared. Finally, be ultra careful driving, as it is impossible to see around or over our biggest snow banks.
This incredible pattern will continue for the foreseeable future. Our weather will continue to be cold and the month of February could become the coldest February since weather records have been kept, in many locations. We have not seen the last of the snow, either.
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