Although temperatures have taken a 15 degree tumble from Sunday to Monday, most of New England still remains warmer-than-normal, and will continue relatively mild through the exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast. Nonetheless, an increasing northerly wind Monday will ensure wind chill values remain in the 30s at best, so even ample sunshine will have a limited effect on warming New Englanders up. Though the body may not feel all that warm today, actual temperatures have been above the melting point in many areas for the last couple of days and nights, and that means continued gradual melting won’t be stopping anytime soon. Although this has resulted in a rapid loss of snowpack – as much as a foot melting over the weekend alone – conditions for skiing and snowmobiling remain delightful for those enjoying the school vacation week thanks to the deep snow leading into this week. Another benefit of a gradual melt is a slow reduction of the spring flood threat, and with no major rain events for the next several days, we think the biggest threat for flooding near rivers would be on smaller Northern New England rivers where ice will break up in the warmth and may jam up flowing downstream, called “ice jam flooding.” The greatest chance for some showers will be overnight Tuesday night – which may feature some freezing rain showers in Northern New England – and perhaps a lingering shower under lots of clouds Wednesday as warmer air filters back into New England. By Thursday, highs should reach 60 degrees for many, and even as a more significant rain storm approaches Saturday, high temperatures should still reach the 50s. Thereafter, even a shot of cooler air likely keeps us just a bit above normal into the start of next week!
As cleanup begins across New England, most of us are shoveling out somewhere between six and sixteen inches of new snow. Scraping that much snow off the road takes time, and many schools have delayed or closed for Friday, extending students’ weekend to four days. For some communities, it’s quite possible a snow day Monday with new snow incoming will make it five days in a row, but it also looks like the weekend ahead presents the opportunity be a character-building weekend for some kiddos, with more opportunities to shovel out the driveway and walkway.
Child or adult, we’ll all bundle up today with high temperatures only near 20 and a wind chill closer to 10 at even the warmest time of the day after starting out below zero. On the bright side, literally and figuratively, sunshine prevails Friday, though clouds will increase noticeably later in the day and snow will follow Friday night.
Snow is expected to fall lightly to moderately Friday night through Saturday morning in nearly all of New England, with Maine on a bit later timeframe seeing the snow falling most of the day Saturday. This time around, expected weather for the Boston area represents most of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, at large – snow that falls Friday night into Saturday morning, gone by mid to late morning, dropping two to four inches of new snow. Roads will improve dramatically by midday with temperatures rising to near the melting point and road crews likely working at it. In the mountainous terrain, amounts will be closer to five inches, and in Maine, snow lasts through much of Saturday, and drops as much as half a foot from the Midcoast, Downeast.
Yet another system is en route for Sunday afternoon through Sunday night, likely to kick out Monday early morning but also likely to leave some snowy roads Monday morning. Though it’s still early to say for sure, Sunday’s event preliminarily looks to drop about four to six inches to interior New England, especially north of the Massachusetts Turnpike, with less south of the Pike, and probably less near the coastline where rain is more likely to mix in.
One more storm chance shows up for the middle of next week in our exclusive NBC Boston & NECN 10-day forecast. In short, the messy February we expected in our seasonal forecast at the start of the winter and in the monthly forecast on February 1 appears to be unfolding, for better or worse. Our Early Warning Weather Team will keep you posted along the way.
Headlines this morning focused on widespread icy roads for the Boston Metropolitan area, grinding traffic to a halt and resulting in the shutdown of portions of interstates and some of their entrance and exit ramps. A crash on Interstate 95 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, involved dozens of cars, with some drivers requiring hospitalization. On a day forecast to rise into the 50s for many – and still likely to do so along and South of the Massachusetts Turnpike – how can such a treacherous start to the day result?
Tuesday morning, some 24 hours prior to the ice event, I did not have widespread ice in the forecast. It appeared warmth would slowly work through Southern New England overnight Tuesday night, following Tuesday’s snow, bumping most temperatures above freezing and into the 30s. The first signs of a major change for the colder, however, began by Tuesday afternoon. I was snow blowing at my home in Haverhill, in the Merrimack Valley, around 4 PM when the anemometer started spinning like crazy and the wind vane pointed north-northeast: the wind howling in was much stronger than I’d expected it to be. That’s when I saw we had a problem: how could a north wind gusting to 30 mph and driving the temperature below 20 degrees reverse sufficiently to warm the surface some 20 degrees in the other direction by morning? The answer became clear: it couldn’t. My ride to work from 2-3 AM spans 48 miles spread over three interstates into Boston’s MetroWest – below freezing but treated and all wet, all the way. Road treatments held up through the night. To our west, radar indicated an area of showers falling into sub-freezing air: freezing rain was moving east. Fifteen or twenty years ago, this would be an immediate problem for all of our roads - now, road chemicals and treatments have advanced and we see so many times we meteorologists caution to beware of icy roads, only to find a few slick spots on the back roads. As freezing rain showers fell, the first 60 minutes of showers brought no reported issues and continued wet roads – then, the scale tipped. Just enough rain fell in the final 30 minutes of showers to cleanse the interstates of treatment, and with temperatures below freezing, that’s all it took. This happened at 5 AM, and as the back edge of the showers moved through communities, one by one the crash reports came in – all in areas that had seen more than an hour’s worth of rain showers…all in areas that had previously seen wet roads until those last 30 minutes of showers…and just in time for commuters to hit the roads.
An interesting question is: how do we avoid this? Surely, the late notice on cold air plays a significant role…the expectation was for rising temperatures, but it became quite clear during the overnight that cold air was not relenting. From there on, this truly was a perfect storm of conditions for road ice, and with no road temperature or treatment data for individual interstates in Massachusetts made public, meteorologists and travelers alike are “flying blind” in conditions like these: What kind of chemicals were applied? Was rainfall light enough to preserve road chemicals, or did they wash away? What happens next to prevent, or at least improve upon, situations like this is meteorologists like Yours Truly will analyze the weather conditions that led to this, but at least for the time-being we will continue to have a blind spot when it comes to road temperature and treatment data.
Next up? Snow – plenty of it. This morning’s snow accumulation forecast we aired from 4:30 to 7 AM on NBC Boston and NECN DID take the surge of cold into account – and the cold surge plays a role in our storm forecast. Storms travel along boundaries between warm and cold air, so the heftier surge of cold air means a storm track that puts areas south of Boston in the cross-hairs for highest snowfall amounts around or locally over a foot, with a significant but lesser snowfall north of the Massachusetts Turnpike, and snow plows likely coming out all the way into the mountains of Northern New England. Expect snow to begin between 5 and 8 AM, west to east, respectively, for the vast majority of us, and continue all the way through Thursday evening, coming to an end Thursday night. A north wind will user in cold temperatures for this storm – 20s south and 10s north – which means snow will quickly stick to and accumulate on roads, making travel treacherous from morning through evening Thursday. Heavy snow at times will combine with wind gusts to 45 mph on Cape Cod Thursday for possible blizzard conditions, though there is a bit less certainty on whether that criteria of 3-hour duration for 35 mph wind gusts and blinding snow will be reached – nonetheless, we believe it is a possibility on Cape Cod for a time Thursday afternoon. Total accumulations are likely to be near a foot from the South Shore through much of Rhode Island into Southeast Connecticut, half a foot or so north of the Pike to extreme Southern New Hampshire and lesser amounts of a few inches in the North Country lakes and mountains. Stay tuned to NBC Boston’s Early Warning Weather Team for continued updates and analysis.
Just realized I never posted the February monthly forecast I aired 4:30-7 AM yesterday on NBC Boston and NECN - so here it is! First, full disclosure, my 75% accuracy on monthly forecasts didn't show through in January as it ended up way warmer than I thought. This month, I think most of the nation continues the mild pattern but the ridge of high pressure and corresponding warmth can only be so large, and New England probably gets repeated incursions of the cold air that will be amassed over Eastern Canada. The cold incursions should be frequent enough in much of Maine and Northern NH to warrant a below normal temperature forecast, but perhaps not for the rest of us. The same ridge of high pressure will mean a dry central and southern tier of the Lower 48, though the Northern Tier remains closer to the active jet stream, which is why I have New England in near normal precipitation. In summary, after such a mild January, February holds potential to be the messiest month of the winter, though as so many of you remind me this time of year: "February's a short month." Indeed, it is!