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A Look Back & Ahead

Barry Burbank
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Twenty-five years ago tonight, a raging record-breaking anomalous late season snowstorm was underway. Back in those days, the television stations didn’t go crazy with storm coverage. There was only one meteorologist on duty at each of the only 3 stations in Boston. Like now, back then I was the weekend and relief meteorologist so Bruce Schwoegler was on duty here at WBZ and I was off on that Tuesday night. Guess what? I was running around my house inside and out unable to contain my joy and excitement. You see, two days prior to this on the evening of Sunday, April 26, 1987,  I delivered a high risk forecast of a major damaging wet snow storm for much of the region even close to the coastline. While all of the data that I studied that day was convincing enough for me to predict that an incredible snowfall of amazing proportions was going to happen, I was still nervous about pulling out all of the stops. For this to materialize in late April, there had to be almost a miracle. The intense dynamical cooling was paramount for snowflakes to survive the trip thousands of feet to the surface. Typically, heavy snows in April are confined to elevated areas far removed from Boston. It would be tricky enough to forecast an unusual snowfall a mere 24 hours away but this was a 48 hour job. Complicating matters on that Sunday evening was a worsening conjunctivitis in my left eye. By that last weathercast at 11:15pm, it looked like someone had punched me in the eye. Also in those days, there was no way to access weather information at home. We lived in the Dark Ages with no internet, no smart phones, no nothing. How did we survive? LOL. We all depended upon the daily newscasts on radio and television. There was no instant gratification. We all had to wait for the 6 and 11pm news. I was extremely uneasy all day on Monday April 27 and became especially upset when the forecasters on duty that night downplayed any potential snow over much of the region except the highest elevations over western New England. With that disclosure, I already felt defeated and beaten down. The next day, things really changed in my favor. The potent upper level disturbance was closing off and a surface storm began to blossom quickly. Sufficient cold air was drawn into the evolving circulation and strong vertical motion produced the cooling and heavy precipitation in the form of snow. It was a wild late afternoon and night with very high density thunder snow. Boston ended up with a new late season record of 4″. Most of coastal NH down through eastern Essex County into Suffolk County, eastern Norfolk County, northern Bristol County and northern Plymouth County got 3-5 inches. Amounts increased up to 6-10″ in Middlesex County, western Norfolk County and extreme eastern Worcester County. Most of the remainder of Worcester County received 10-15 inches with the hillier areas getting 20-25″ The jackpot was at Princeton with 25″! Even northwestern RI was under 10-15″! The pasty waterlogged snow created much tree damage and power outages. With 9″ on the ground at our house, my 3 children aged 2, 4 and 6 and my wife and I built a big snowman on our front lawn the next morning. The snow settled, melted quickly and vanished over the next 24-48 hours! It was my greatest forecast triumph in my 36 years of on-air weathercasting.

Looking ahead, I can guarantee that there is no snow in the forecast but the next couple nights will be freezing cold. In fact, the National Weather Service has issued a FREEZE WARNING for much of the region later tonight into early tomorrow morning. Protect those tender plants! There is no warning for NH and ME because the growing season is considered to begin in early May. Nevertheless, it will be very cold there as well so you should protect any tender plants up there as well. Overnight temperatures will fall to about 25-32 degrees over a widespread area except in the larger urban centers such as Boston. Frost will not be seen at daybreak tomorrow because the air is too dry. There will be some thin cloudiness passing through part of the night on the northern fringe of a weak storm transiting well south of the region. The wind will relax much sooner than it did last night so it will likely be colder than last night as some radiational cooling commences. As a ridge of high pressure slowly approaches tomorrow, brilliant late April sunshine will warm it up steadily through the day to 4pm highs near or just under 60. The northwesterly wind will become brisk at times again with gusts to 25-30 mph from 10AM-5PM. The wind will abate tomorrow night so another freeze is likely under a clear sky. The ridge will shift overhead on Monday so a light wind will turn into a sea breeze for coastal communities. Highs will range from the 50s along the coast to the middle 60s farther away from the ocean. Sunshine will yield to some patchy high cloudiness later in the day.

The next wet weather is destined to occur on Tuesday. A few showers could already be near during the morning commute and a few more will occur during the day with patches of mist. As a weak wave of low pressure passes to the south of us, the resultant breeze may be northeasterly with much lingering cloudiness on Wednesday. Consequently, expect highs in the middle to upper 50s as May begins on Tuesday and Wednesday. Subsequently, a surge of warm air could bust into New England Thursday and Friday but we may be located close to frontal boundaries. As a result, I am presently not highly confident that it turns balmy but I will lean in the direction of the lower to middle 70s for now. We shall see.

Joe Joyce delivers his AccuWeather Forecast in the morning and I shall follow later in the day.

Enjoy your Sunday!



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