Back-to-back disturbances will move through New England today and Tuesday, but with dramatically different results. Limited moisture and a fast-moving disturbance today resulted in pockets of light snow and snow showers, giving way to increasing breaks of sun during the afternoon. Overnight tonight, cold and dry air will build more strongly into New England, partially clearing the sky and dropping temperatures into the teens and 20s ahead of the next atmospheric disturbance, arriving Wednesday. Clouds will thicken quickly Wednesday morning with some light snow trickling in off the ocean at first, then the more substantial shield of snow arriving from west to east, middle to late morning, in the Boston area around 10 AM. By midday and early afternoon, snow will be falling heavily, with a rain/snow line starting over Cape Cod, then slowly trudging north and northwest during the afternoon to early evening. The mix with sleet, then rain, will limit accumulations in suburbs south of Boston to a few inches, though west and north of town, amounts of three to six inches become more likely, with over half a foot of snow likely in far Northern MA points northward…and up to a foot for some of Northern New England. Along the South Coast, a gusty southwest wind to 55 mph with mild air will take hold Wednesday evening, before the entire storm system moves east overnight Wednesday night. Drier weather returns for most of New England Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday, before more mixed showers are possible Sunday. Another weak system is possible around midweek next week in our exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
Early morning fog and patchy black ice has given way to a bright, breezy, and brisk start to the work week with temperatures hovering in the 30s with west-northwest wind gusts to 40 mph creating wind chill values in the 20s this afternoon. Tonight brings a few more clouds and the colder air continues to infiltrate with lows in the teens south, 10s north. Tuesday, not as bright as Monday, as clouds stick around ahead of our next system for Wednesday. Tuesday’s high temperatures reach into the lower 30s south, near 30 north with a few mountain flurries and along the Canadian border. Our system for Wednesday will start as snow around midday for nearly all of New England before mix and rain moves north off the South Coast during the afternoon and evening, but not before plowable snow falls for the vast majority of us. As far as accumulation, early estimates are at least a few inches around the immediate Boston area and over six inches from Northern Massachusetts points north, with higher amounts expected in the higher terrain. As the system exits predawn Thursday to the northeast, colder but dry air settles in to wrap up the work week with highs near 30 south, near 20 north with some lingering snow showers into early Thursday. The upcoming weekend could bring a quick burst of flurries for northern New England Saturday, while Sunday brings more widespread rain showers advancing up from the southeast, yet again potentially mixed with snow the farther north one is. In the meantime, stick with NBC10 Boston / NECN for the latest forecast updates on the air, online, and on the go with our app.
For most who grew up in New England, “Blizzard of ‘78” needs no explaining. What has become known as the benchmark storm for New England has since been outdone – at least in the record books – by a higher snow total and, as of this January, a higher coastal flood level, but February 6, 1978, has yet to be outdone in New England memory and lore.
The late 1970s were a different time all-around: the cost of a new home was just over $60,000 and a gallon of gas was just over 60 cents, cheaper than a dozen eggs at 80 cents or a gallon of milk at a buck-70. It was also a different time in weather forecasting: technology paled in comparison, with today’s smartphone nearly equivalent to a super-computer of the 1970s. Of course, early technology meant weather forecasting guidance was also in early development, and unable to predict many of the complexities of the atmosphere. It was clear a storm was coming – the Boston National Weather Service hoisted a Winter Storm Watch nearly 30 hours before the storm began and forecast a blizzard more than 12 hours ahead of time…and that was great guidance in 1978. Some who aren’t tuned into forecast verification – how good forecasts are - would argue we’ve made almost no progress in meteorology since those days…that human intuition and reading the weather patterns as they evolved was a more accurate method than analyzing any of today’s technology. The forecast accuracy scores of short-term forecasts and 10-day forecasts like our exclusive Early Warning Weather forecast, along with forecast rain and snow depictions to 15-minute intervals from our exclusive model, prove that notion incorrect. Indeed, it was the nuances like snow timing that proved critical in February of ’78, as the snow arrived hours late, and the public, by and large, discounted how strong the storm would actually be.
So, to some extent, the Blizzard of 1978 may remain untouchable – the intensity and longevity of the event – or at least one of those facets - would be hard to miss from a day or two out with modern technology (though, admittedly, not impossible). I would suggest, however, that the horrific impact of the Blizzard, stranding cars for days on Boston area highways, inundating coastal communities with frigid ocean water necessitating rescues and the epic snowfall totals, certainly could repeat. In 1978, accidents and a jack-knifed tractor trailer ground traffic to a halt as the heaviest snow moved in, making it nearly impossible for plows to clear snow from the highways – the result was abandoned cars and people trapped in their vehicles. My father was a Massachusetts State Trooper and I’ve been regaled with memories from he and his colleagues about the State Police going car to car, up and down the highways, and the valiant efforts of everyday citizens to help one another. Everyone who was alive for the Blizzard of ’78 has their story – several years ago, for the 30th anniversary in 2008, I invited viewers to share their remembrances of 1978, and some of your stories are forever in my memory – from being trapped in your own car to cross country skiing home and even riding out the storm in a sailboat. Not everyone saw a wintry lashing. My colleague and NBC10 Boston & NECN Meteorologist Tim Kelley was a resident on Cape Cod in 1978 and recalls, “For me it was a major disappointment because it was rain on Cape Cod and the sun came out, even as the blizzard raged 50 miles away.” The fascination that weather could be so different over such a small distance that day became Tim’s strongest motivator in becoming a meteorologist.
1978 Commute Rivaled, But Not Equaled: Fast-forward to December 17, 2013 – I was on-air on NECN in the morning and our team predicted the worst commute for some of the Boston area since the Blizzard of ’78. It was a bold statement, perhaps, but not a bold forecast, as it was the same convergence of nature…and human nature. Snow started late morning, but a burst of very heavy snow was expected to arrive by early afternoon, and that’s exactly when private and public employers decided to send employees home – as the snow started falling at two to three inches per hour. This put a large number of cars on the road at the same time, during heaviest snow, making it nearly impossible for plows to keep up with snowfall rate, amidst heavy volume, resulting in commutes in excess of eight hours from Boston to the Merrimack Valley. The situation was compounded by jack-knifed tractor trailers on the Massachusetts Turnpike westbound at Charlton, and another on the ramp from I-93 north onto I-95 south in Reading. Another semi would stall in snow on the ramp from 290 east to 495 north in Marlborough. Some cars were abandoned, but human impact and severity was far less than 1978, owing largely to a storm that didn’t linger for days like ’78 did when it stalled off of our coastline.
The 1978 Snowfall Record Broken: The new record snowfall in Boston, surpassing the Blizzard of 1978, was set by the President’s Day snowstorm of 2003, hitting 27.6 inches to top 1978’s 27.1 inches. Admittedly, there are still doubts over the veracity of this snow total, as it’s been raised that snow was not measured in the same fashion, not allowing snow to compact over several hours and thereby inflating results, but the records are the records, and, no matter, nature will provide a more resounding record-beater if given enough time.
Coastal Flood Level of 1978 Broken: Just weeks ago, our January 4 blizzard (though it wasn’t technically a blizzard in Boston) delivered a water level that broke the Blizzard of 1978 record, by inches, as the highest water level ever recorded in Boston since installation of the tidal gauge in 1921. The Blizzard of 1978 brought a water level of 15.10 feet and on January 4, 2018, the water rose to 15.16 feet - another Blizzard of 1978 record falls. With predicted sea level rise ahead, extreme storms will very likely continue to set new records in the years and decades ahead.
Of course, even with all of the records now broken, there still is no storm that looms as large in the rear-view mirror as the Blizzard of 1978. These records prove we’ve had storms more intense, but not lasting for days on end following a “perfect commute storm” setup of a burst of heavy snow at the same time highest volume was on the roads. It seems safe to say, in the court of public opinion and human impact, a Storm for the Ages in New England needs to be not only powerful, but also long-lasting. Given the combination of extreme precipitation events, rising sea level, rising ocean surface temperatures making for more available energy and intense clashes of large-scale warming air with shots of intense cold, the players are all on the table to outperform the Blizzard of 1978 – of that, I have no question. Perhaps a winter version of Sandy, you could theorize – remember, that was a well forecast storm, devoid of many surprise elements, but will never be forgotten by those impacted, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic, and is their new Benchmark. To say we will see a storm that tops the Blizzard of 1978 in New England is not hype, nor sensationalism, it’s just sound reasoning based on scientific observation – but until that time, the Blizzard of 1978 remains the Boss of New England storms.
After an icy start off the well-treated interstates, cold and dry air has taken over, sending temperatures down into the 20s and wind chill values to the single digits and teens on a gusty northwest wind to 40 mph in strongest gusts. Expect a fresh overnight breeze to couple with low temperatures in the single digits and teens to create subzero wind chills. The cold and dry air will make Saturday exactly that – cold and dry – though the cold won’t be exceptional, and highs in the 20s and teens in mountains will be just great for winter sports across New England. The next storm system to approach New England stays mostly to our west, meaning warmth has an opportunity to stream in ahead of it…which is why most of Southern New England will see rain showers developing Sunday late morning onward. For those in Northern Massachusetts points north, however, enough cold air should linger for precipitation to start as snow showers before changing to raindrops, and in Northern New England, accumulating snow is probable Sunday and Sunday night, with the rain and snow departing early Monday. After a short break in the action, another storm will wind up just west of or over New England Tuesday night through Wednesday, likely delivering another round of rain showers south and snow north, and leaving a shot of cooler air in its wake for the end of next week in the exclusive, Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
The upcoming 10-day forecast stretch is going to be a busy one: though it remains to be determined whether any major storms will impact New England, we certainly have several rounds of nuisance events, at a minimum, in the forecast. The first round of snow moves in late today for Cape Cod and Southeast MA, then spreads across the remainder of Eastern New England late evening through overnight, continuing into Tuesday morning. Though snow will never be exceptionally heavy, the continuing light snow will result in a slick start for the eastern half of New England Tuesday morning, meaning some delays and cancellations are possible…though with total snow amounts no greater than about four inches in hardest hit spots, the timing of snow is the biggest impact. By Tuesday midday and afternoon, drier air takes hold again and persists through Wednesday. Milder air arriving Thursday will be accompanied by enough moisture to touch off a few mixed rain and snow showers, and we’ll be closely watching how organized and intense these can become later Thursday into Friday. Again, any snow and rain will be followed by a dry and cold shot of air to start the weekend, with the possibility for yet more snowflakes and raindrops later Sunday into Monday and perhaps, yet again, by the middle of next week. In short, there’s a lot for our Early Warning Weather Team to keep our eyes on in the exclusive 10-day forecast!
Our final cold day in the current chilly stretch is upon us, and the wind is noticeably lighter than 24 hours ago, meaning wind chill is much less of a factor and – to exposed skin – today’s air is less harsh. A large dome of high pressure, or fair weather, is cresting over the Eastern Seaboard today, delivering dry air for plentiful sunshine and great weather for travel regionally and across much of the nation. As warmer air is propelled northeast on a strengthening wind, some clouds will develop in the clash of outgoing chill and incoming warmth overnight Friday night into Saturday, dimming Saturday sunshine from time to time but unlikely to yield any showers until Saturday evening and night. By that point, southwest winds gusting to 40 mph will have delivered high temperatures around 50° in Central and Southern New England and 40° in the North Country, ahead of Saturday evening showers of rain and snow north, then Saturday night showers south. Sunday will dawn dry in Ski Country, meaning two very good days in the north, while Southern New England wakes to rain Sunday morning with drying from late morning or midday onward. A coastal system developing Monday may spread enough moisture northwest of its center to produce some snow in New England Monday afternoon and night – we’ll keep a close eye on that – with another quick surge of cold air following the system for midweek. Another up and down cycle of temperatures is likely from week’s end into next weekend in our exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
The peak of this cold snap has arrived today, with sunshine unable to get most of us to break 30° and an active northwest wind keeping the wind chill value in the teens south and single digits north. Dry air dominates, so no snow is in the forecast until perhaps a few Great North Woods overnight flurries with partly cloudy skies and subzero wind chill for the rest of us. We don’t expect much warming Friday…highs in the 30s but the wind chill will be absent with a light wind so there will be a noticeable difference in the air. A strengthening southwest wind will bump temperatures up into the 40s and even over 50 degrees for some of Southern New England on Saturday, though the arriving warmer air will bring plenty of clouds, then some afternoon mixed snow and rain showers to the mountains. By Saturday evening and night, mixed northern showers will push southward as a band of rain overnight into Sunday, lasting at least the first half of the day and perhaps longer the farther south one is…though ski country should dry out Sunday. The same frontal boundary will hover southeast of New England on Monday, meaning the chance of rain or snow continues before drier and colder air surges in for a couple of days toward midweek. Another round of mild moisture is possible at the end of next week in the exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
After early morning black ice caused scattered problems in New England, a fair sky has helped to melt that ice, but colder air continues to move in. In fact, temperatures today have been holding steady or rising only slightly as a northwest wind increases to gust up to 30 mph this afternoon and subzero air from James Bay, Canada, migrates southeast. By overnight tonight, low temperatures will drop into the teens with wind chill values below zero under a partly cloudy sky ahead of a sunny but cold Thursday, when high temperatures will fight to break 30 for most of us and wind chill values won’t surpass 20 degrees. Cold is expected to continue through Friday, but with a lighter wind, the air will feel about 20 degrees warmer than Thursday. As the next storm center develops to our west, warmth will be pulled into New England on a strengthening southwest wind Saturday, and Southern New England will see temperatures rising well into the 40s and perhaps even surpassing 50 for some communities, including Boston. The North Country will see slower progression of the warmth with a few snow showers Saturday, then most of us are expected to warm enough for rain Sunday…though the far Northern reaches of New England may see enough cold air for accumulating snow. Lingering rain and snow showers are possible early Monday ahead of another quick shot of cold, then more warming by late week next week, as the up and down temperature pattern continues to unfold in our exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
The anticipated weekend warmup is nearly upon us – after sunshine ducking in and out of clouds today with highs only in the 30s and a breeze knocking wind chill values into the 20s, New England will find a partly cloudy and cool night with lows in the 20s. With a slow increase in atmospheric moisture, some black ice may develop on area roads overnight into Saturday morning, but that would burn off within the first hour or two of Saturday morning sun through wispy clouds. A busy southwest breeze will team with some sun to bump temperatures above 50 degrees in Southern New England Saturday afternoon, with 40s more commonplace in Northern New England. With the ongoing ice jams along rivers like the Connecticut, a gradual melt is a welcome opportunity to make progress breaking up the jams to avoid significant flooding. Though perhaps not quite as mild as Saturday, Sunday will bring more melting with high temperatures into the 40s south and 30s north as cool air oozes back into New England, eventually making us cold enough that showers arriving Monday should start as a mix of raindrops and snowflakes. As warm air continues to move into the region, plain rain showers are much more likely Tuesday with highs nearing 50…before a return to cool and fair weather for the rest of next workweek, and a chance of rain or snow next weekend, at the end of the exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast.
Several days of dry weather are ahead for New England, and while that won’t change from day to day, with no organized storms west of us today until you reach the Pacific Northwest, there will actually be a lot of change going on in the atmosphere. The storm entering the northwestern corner of the U.S. will reshape the jet stream – the fast-moving river of air, high in the sky, that steers storm systems and separates cold air to the north from warmth to the south – and the new jet stream configuration will favor carrying warmth into New England for the weekend. So, after today and tomorrow with highs in the 30s and a bright sky, Saturday brings high temperatures in the 50s south and 40s north. This time of year, cold air is very good at battling back and we expect that battle to result in some Northern Maine snow Saturday and a slight southward push of cold air Sunday that probably won’t make it into the Southern half of New England, but will cool temperatures in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. If all goes as planned, the Patriots will play in fair weather and temperatures in the upper 40s Sunday afternoon before cooler air arrives Monday with a mix of rain and snow showers arriving later Monday and transitioning to plain raindrops Tuesday with another brief burst of milder air. The remainder of the exclusive Early Warning Weather 10-day forecast keeps seasonable temperatures through the middle and end of the week ahead of another chance of rain or snow next weekend.