As the wind slowly diminishes and the cold gradually moderates, the dangerous aspect of our recent chill exits and we’re reduced to simply stinging cold for daylight Tuesday. Even so, with temperatures generally some 20 degrees milder and wind chill values 30 to 35 degrees less harsh than yesterday, we certainly can feel the improvement. After a cold night of increasing clouds Tuesday night, clouds will outweigh any breaks of sun Wednesday with snow showers developing in Northern New England during the morning, light freezing rain showers making roads slick in Western New England late morning to midday and plain rain showers developing during the late afternoon and evening for Central and Eastern New England. An increasing southerly wind will slowly but steadily bump temperatures into the 40s by late Wednesday, and those readings should continue to rise Wednesday night with thick fog developing as rain continues and snow changes to a mixture in the mountains. Rain continues Thursday, totaling one to two inches of water that will deliver big puddles from previously ice and snow clogged storm drains and probably some wet basements owing to a frozen ground, but ends as snowflakes from northwest to southeast Thursday midday to evening, respectively, giving way to a new shot of cold and dry air to start the weekend after new snow of two to four inches in the mountains Wednesday through Thursday. By early next week – between Sunday night and Wednesday morning - the jet stream pattern becomes favorable for East Coast storm development, so our First Alert Team will continue to watch that entire timeframe very carefully in the days ahead.
It’s rare that the term “dangerous cold” is employed in weather descriptions for Boston and the Southern New England Metropolitan areas, but today is one of those rare moments. Although the temperatures are cold – and, in fact, will set records in some New England cities for coldest high temperatures on this date – the temperatures in and of themselves are not dangerous for those who spend normal amounts of time outside, just uncomfortable. It’s the combination with wind that creates a dangerous component by introducing wind chill factor. Wind chill is the best estimate we have of the effect of wind on the skin: above our skin is a thin layer of air that holds warmth around our body. When the wind blows across skin, the warmth is carried away, allowing the skin to cool quicker than it otherwise would, and how quickly this happens depends upon the wind speed…hence, the wind chill factor is the combined effect of wind and cold. Today’s wind chill values of -20 for many is sufficient to cause frostbite in only 30 minutes of exposure while some of Northern and Western New England’s -35 wind chill has been enough for frostbite in as little as 10-15 minutes. There are some ways to fend off the effects of cold and wind:
- Cover up! Wind chill only applies to exposed skin, so if you leave no skin exposed, you are immune from the effects of wind chill – it will still feel uncomfortably cold because the temperature is cold, but in this case, the danger would be negated.
- Dress in layers: Dressing in many layers, rather than just throwing one winter coat on, will keep you warmer.
- Take breaks from the cold: If you work outside, you may notice fatigue setting in or muscle cramping. Take breaks to warm up and give your body a rest to reduce the strain on your body.
- Hydrate: Hydration is not just for the summer – arctic air is very dry, and dehydrates the body, making temperature regulation much more difficult. Staying hydrated is an important way to offset the effects of the dry air.
The cold air spilling across warmer ocean waters will spray snow showers onto Outer Cape Cod Monday afternoon and evening, dropping light, fluffy snow that may amount to two to four inches in spots from Provincetown through Wellfleet. Pockets of dangerous wind chill will continue for New England into the overnight, then the wind will slowly subside over the course of the day Tuesday as temperatures warm, but the return to work and school coming off the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday will be a biting cold one at the bus stop and in the car before that temperature rebound begins. Even with the air not-as-cold, highs will still be capped shy of 30 for many of us and teens in the north.
Incredibly, it looks like enough milder air moves north into New England for rain showers, not snow, Wednesday afternoon, evening and night into Thursday, though Northern New England is still expected to be cold enough for a few inches of snow, at least. A shot of colder, drier air Friday and Saturday will set up an interesting weather pattern heading into Sunday through Tuesday of next week: cold air here at home, a series of very intense disturbances diving south through the nation’s mid-section and tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will all combine for what could be a very powerful East Coast Storm sometime between Sunday night and Tuesday – but it’s early and we’ll continue to monitor to see whether all of these players line up together.
New England is bracing for a major winter storm this weekend – complete with snow, sleet, rain, wind and coastal flooding depending upon location. Our weather team has issued First Alerts for Friday morning and Saturday night into Sunday. For now, dry air is holding on for sunshine and cold temperatures Thursday, with a busy early morning wind dying quickly so wind chill won’t be a significant factor beyond the already chilly temperatures. Clouds will increase Thursday evening and night as moisture riding ahead of an approaching disturbance moves overhead, lowering through the overnight and leading to snow showers predawn Friday morning. The timing with Friday morning’s commute is the reason for our First Alert – light snow accumulation will only be a dusting to an inch with perhaps slightly more in the hills and mountains, but the timing is during the morning drive on roads that, unless treated, will be cold enough to quickly accumulate that snow and become slick. Snow showers will end by early afternoon Friday, mixed with raindrops for some, and some breaks in the clouds are likely Friday late day, allowing for patchy black ice overnight Friday night. Although Saturday will be dry, clouds will increase ahead of the first major winter storm of the season for many metro areas of Southern New England and snow will begin late Saturday evening, falling heavily Saturday overnight into Sunday as a sleet area migrates north through CT, RI and Southeast MA Sunday morning, perhaps recoiling as far north as the Merrimack Valley by Sunday midday. Of course, by that point plows will have been out for most of New England, save for far southern communities, and travel will be difficult if not impossible as blizzard conditions are possible from Southeast NH up the ME coast Sunday morning and midday as snow totals reach up to two feet in Northern and Central New England, and half a foot to a foot in much of Southern New England. Although exact end time is still up for grabs, we expect the storm to taper later Sunday, giving way to punishing cold for MLK Jr. Day with wind chill values near zero at the warmest time of day before another storm threat for the middle of next week.
A cold front is crossing New England today, though for most of Central and Southern New England the only indication of changing air will be a changing wind direction late Wednesday to change from a southwest breeze to a cold northwest winter wind. In Northern New England, the mountains will team with the passing cold front to breed scattered snow showers with little accumulation except at the summits, but the open door to new, cold, Canadian air will send Wednesday night temperatures below zero north and into the teens south, with wind chill values for most of New England around or below zero. A cold, windy start Thursday will give way to a diminishing wind with sunshine, though cold air will hold firm all the way through Thursday night, with a new approaching disturbance triggering snow showers Friday morning for the commute. Snow showers Friday should drop a limited accumulation of a dusting to an inch for most of us, though the hills and mountains have the best chance of squeezing out a couple of inches before a mix of snow and rain showers cap off the event around midday to early afternoon. Dry weather Friday afternoon through Saturday evening is a breather before the next, much stronger storm arrives Saturday night through Sunday. This late weekend storm will come in with abundant moisture, colliding with our antecedent cold air and producing an initial burst of snow that should bring out the plows for nearly all of New England, save, perhaps, for Southeast MA and Cape Cod. A change to rain will move north across much of Southern New England on Sunday, but Central and Northern New England continue snowing with heavy totals expected. An arctic surge moves in for MLK Jr. Day with wind chill values around zero at the warmest time of the day, then another storm is likely late in the First Alert 10-day forecast.
With a First Alert issued by our weather team for both Friday morning and Sunday, we’re on borrowed time with quiet and dry weather, but for now, New England remains cool and quiet. A light wind Tuesday couples with sun and high-altitude clouds to make high temperatures in the 30s actually feel like we’re pretty close to that in the absence of any significant wind chill. Tuesday night’s clear sky and light wind will allow temperatures to drop into the teens but, again, no significant wind chill is expected. A moisture-starved storm system moving along the Canada border Wednesday will pull a cold front toward New England, inducing a strengthening southwest wind gusting 25 to 30 mph Wednesday afternoon, but also ushering in enough milder air to nudge temperatures into the 40s. Of course, a busy wind negates some of our warming, leaving wind chill values in the 30s at the warmest time of day Wednesday. Clouds return Thursday and snow develops overnight Thursday night, continuing through Friday morning and making for a slick commute before a change to rain progresses from north to south across Southern New England from morning to midday before precipitation shuts down for the afternoon. We’ll dry out Friday afternoon through Saturday, then our next storm comes calling – an energetic storm loaded with both Pacific and Gulf of Mexico moisture that ensures heavy precipitation across the area and another First Alert for Sunday. The key on Sunday is exact placement of the rain/snow line, which may end up as far north as Central or Southern New Hampshire for the heart of the event depending on storm track, but regardless of where it lands, extremely heavy snow will fall north of the track, followed by cold air for the MLK holiday.