Not Much Change…A Real Mess On Our Hands

By Meteorologist Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV

It is safe to say the word is out on this one. It is still very early in the game so  the whos, wheres, the how much’s will have to wait…but it is pretty clear that this storm is going to have a major impact for a good portion of the nation with a mix of snow, sleet, ice and rain. Heavy snow will be a problem, but where we have freezing rain…the travel will become even more dangerous for commuters.

Clouds rolling through this morning as another shortwave pushes through. Scattered flurries are possible with the passage of an arctic front which will be off the coast this afternoon with clearing skies later in the day. Cold air settles in overnight with lows in the single digits and teens, NW valleys below zero. Arctic sunshine in place for Monday with highs in the teens and Lwr 20’s.

Our storm is currently in California so we have some real estate to cover before the main event arrives. As you know, we are tracking two waves of precipitation. Cold arctic air is pressing south thanks to Canadian High pressure with warm air lifting  north out of the Gulf of Mexico as upper level winds begin to direct this Storm from the Gulf to the Ohio Valley. The clashing of these two airmasses will become the boundary from which this storm will feed and eventually track as the lighter warmer air over rides the colder heavier air at the ground. This set up has ice storm written all over it where it mixes…but there will be plenty that see just a heavy snow too.

Our first wave along this battle zone arrive Tuesday during the mid-late morning. Temp profiles look cold enough to support snow for most of the day. This will be a problem for many area schools. Do they cancel school for two days in a row? Poor parents. What to do? The snow will fill in fast Tuesday…become heavier by midday, so by the afternoon commute home..there will be several inches of snow on the ground. Do you send the buses and kids out in it? Why risk it?  This will be a game time call obviously. Tuesday’s morning commute will be dry, but evening commute will be a mess with snow covered road and the potential for 3-5″ of snow on the ground by 7 PM. This initial wave will pull away Tuesday night and may even mix with sleet and light rain as the precipitation begins to lighten and taper off.

Here lies the problem…The main event has not even started yet. Round #2 fills back in by dawn on Wednesday. More commuting nightmares for those who must get to work.  By this time, our storm will have tracked from Texas to the Ohio valley as an intensifying low. Heavy snows will be found on the northern side of the low…from Missouri, to Iowa, to Illinois, to Michigan. As warm air becomes entrained into the low in the midlevels between 850-800 mb, that pink transition line between snow and rain will mean business! A significant sleet and freezing rain storm is likely just south of the areas which will be getting the heaviest snow. Southern, Missouri, S. Illinois, S. Indiana, Ohio and PA all seem like pretty good bets to have to deal with this icy mix.

I know what you are thinking…who cares! What about us? New England is going to be a really close call. Just a few miles in the track will have extreme differences in Ptype, amounts, and impact. The Low is going to be LOADED with moisture from the Gulf. It is going to be a flat out nasty day. I am watching the influx of warmth some of our models are showing in the mid levels with warm air advection around the low.  Most have the 0 line at 850 going to the Mass Pike and stalling and then collapsing to the coast later. The GFS and JMA have been warmer, but I suspect will start to trend colder and come closer in line with the Euro and the GEM.

By Dawn on Wednesday, I am expecting snow to be falling along and north of the Pike, with freezing rain and sleet line moving through CT, RI and southeast MA. It will likely be raining on the Cape & islands by then. How far north this mix line goes is the real question, and I don’t think anyone really knows at this point. I think the best chance sleet and freezing rain will be south and along the Pike with the best chance of accumulating snow along and north of the Pike. Pretty straight forward, but again any change in warmth or track will have huge impacts to the forecast.

Boston is the real wild card as always. Anything goes here as the boundary will likely set up right at the coast. Forecast for Boston: A Sloppy mess!  Southeast MA will likely have a time of a change to plain rain especially at the coast  Wednesday morning through midday into the afternoon. As the storm tracks right along the south coast, where there is mixing…a transition back to sleet and eventually back to snow is likely by sunset with the potential for a few inches of snow on top of the slop which just fell.

Northern and Central New England will likely remain cold enough for all snow which will be heavy, wet and compact. Snowfall accumulations will range from 12-18″ where it is all snow away from the mix line. Jack pots appear to be Southern VT, Southern, NH, NW MA….this could all shift towards the pike if the cold air hold stronger. Snow ends Wednesday night.

Let me add there is about 15-30″ of snow in the ground. In that snow there is about 3-5″ of water which put and an incredible weight per square foot especially on these flat rooftops. Add another 1-2″ of water equivalent on top of what is in place we may start to see some bigger problems ahead for some homes. A good weekend to clear the vulnerable rooftops.

People have been asking me about flooding. What happens with a big warm up and rainstorms and all this water in the snow is released? I guess that is always possible…but I do not see much warmth in this pattern for at least the next 20 days…so I am hoping for a gradual break down of this snow… We do have to keep in mind…the higher the snow piles, the more vulnerable we become to flooding someday. Rivers will be running awfully high come spring. But for now…let’s just hope for the best.

Another Arctic high builds in behind the storm providing very cold air to end the week. Another piece of energy coming out of the Gulf and tracking up the coast by next Saturday will have to be watched closely too! Could that hit? Maybe…at least a glancing graze accumulating snow in southern New England. Keep an eye on it! Then after that…quite possibly the coldest air of the winter builds back in by the 9th or 10th and we will likely see another storm somewhere around there as well. Winter is showing no signs of mercy for now.  Plenty of weather to sort out between now and then.

Season Snow Totals so far:

Hartford, CT 71.2 inches
Worcester, MA 61.6 inches
Boston, MA 60.3 inches
New York City Central Park 56.1 inches
Bridgeport, CT 54.4 inches


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