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Snowstorm May Be One Of Biggest In New England History

By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer
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This story is from February 7, 2013. Visit our Weather page for the latest forecast and current conditions.

BOSTON (CBS) – Are you ready to make history?

This storm has the potential to be one of those events that you remember for a lifetime.

Check: Interactive Radar  |  Current Conditions  |  Weather Blogs | Forecast Maps

20 years from now you may still be saying to a friend, “Hey where were you during the Blizzard of 2013?”

Let’s hope your answer isn’t “stuck in my car” or “stranded on the side of the road.”

Blizzards are nothing to take lightly, conditions can deteriorate rapidly and within minutes that road in front of you can turn into a complete whiteout.

Your Questions: Ask The Weather Team

Everyone should take the next 24 hours to complete preparations – fill up the gas tank in your car, have fuel on hand for a generator or snowblower.  Coastal residents in flood prone areas should board windows and check the sump pump and, of course, make sure you have batteries on hand.

Gallery: WBZ Storm Forecast Maps

A Blizzard Warning is in effect from 6 am Friday to 1 PM EST Saturday for much of Eastern and Central Massachusetts.

A Coastal Flood Warning is in effect from 8 PM Friday to noon EST Saturday.

So let’s get to the details.

TIMELINE

Midnight Tonight:

We could see the first flakes flying as early as late tonight, but the snow would be very light and primarily near the coast, just some ocean-effect flurries out ahead of the actual storm.

7 a.m. Friday:

Some light scattered snow, again not really associated directly with the storms circulation, still fairly quiet and still time to make last minute preps.

Noon Friday:

Steady snow comes ashore the South Coast and into Connecticut, winds begin to become noticeably stronger along the South Shore and South Coast.  Scattered light snow continues elsewhere.

5 p.m. Friday:

Steady snow falling in all of southern New England, an inch or two of accumulation by this time, especially from Boston-south where it has been snowing steady for the longest amount of time.   The rain-snow line sits along the extreme South Coast and snow begins to mix with rain over Cape Cod. Travel conditions quickly going downhill.

10 p.m. Friday:

We will be entering the peak hours of the storm by now.  Heavy bands of snow will be rotating south to north.  Snowfall rates of an inch per hour or greater over most of the area. The rain-snow line will now be somewhere in southern Rhode Island to the Massachusetts South Coast to Cape Cod. Winds will be screaming out of the east-northeast, gusts 25-to-50+ mph along the coastline with highest gusts to 65 mph along extreme southeastern Massachusetts and South Coast.

This is also about the time of high tide. Seas will become very rough, splash over will occur and vulnerable shore roads may be washed out. This will be a minor to moderate coastal flooding event Friday night. Pockets of blizzard conditions will exist, especially near the coastline. A widespread 4-to-8 inches on the ground by 10 p.m.

5 a.m. Saturday:

The actual center of the storm will near Nantucket and this will likely be the absolute peak of the storm for snow intensity and winds.

Snowfall rates greater than 2 inches per hour are likely with widespread blizzard conditions. Powerful east-northeast winds will gust near hurricane force (70+ mph) near the Outer Cape and over the open waters off Cape Cod Bay.  Elsewhere along the coast, wind gusts will peak 40-to-70 mph, violently whipping the snow, making it impossible to distinguish between falling and blowing snow.

Inland, winds will be strong as well with frequent gusts from 25-to-50 mph. The rain-snow line will reach its farthest northward point right about now, somewhere between Bourne and Plymouth, perhaps as far north as Providence to Taunton (briefly).

Total snowfall by 5 a.m. will range from 10-to-20 inches.

10 a.m. Saturday:

The winds begin to veer to a more northerly direction turning any rain to the south back over to snow.  The snow will now setup in bands with a more north-south orientation as the center of the storm will come even with the Outer Cape about 50-to-100 miles to the east.

Intense snowfall rates will continue within these bands with an inch or two per hour still possible.  In between snow bands there will be areas of lighter snow.

The biggest concern at this hour will be the high tide which is astronomically near a foot and a half higher than Friday night’s. There is potential for some pockets of major coastal flooding between 8 a.m. and noon on Saturday.

The key here will be wind direction.  If the winds turn a bit quicker to the north, then our coast may be spared the worst scenario.  More likely than not, the winds will continue to be northeasterly at this hour causing significant flooding. Total snow accumulation by this hour 12-to-24 inches.

3 p.m. Saturday:

As the storm slowly pulls away from the New England coastline, additional bands of moderate to heavy snow will rotate north to south across all of New England.  The bands will likely have greater distances between them and there may be several locations where it is just lightly snowing or perhaps not snowing at all. Winds will remains gusty out of the north, 20-to-40 mph+.

Most of the accumulation will be done by 3 p.m. Widespread 18-to-24 inches with pockets up to 30 inches.

8 p.m. Saturday:

Most of New England will be out of the woods by this time, just a few snow bands left rotating near the coast, and over Cape Cod.  99-percent of the accumulation is done and cleanup time begins.

The biggest wildcard with this storm at this hour is the rain-snow line.

Models disagree to some extent how far north the rain will penetrate. No doubt that Cape Cod will be raining for most of Friday night.  Some models keep the rain-snow line down there and others sneak it north up the South Shore.  This obviously will affect final snow totals quite a bit.

SNOW ACCUMULATION

The forecast hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 24 hours.

We are still expecting a widespread 18-to-24 inches or more!

map22 Snowstorm May Be One Of Biggest In New England History

As I said Wednesday, storms with similar setups to this in the past have produced isolated amounts of 30 inches or higher and that is certainly possible with this event.

We will have our eyes on the record books for sure.

In case you are wondering, here are the top 5 Boston snow events of all time.  We have a serious shot at cracking into this list.

  1. February 17-18 2003 27.5 inches (President’s Day storm)
  2. February 6-7 1978 27.1 inches (Blizzard of ’78)
  3. February 24-27 1969 26.3 inches (The 100-hour storm)
  4. March 31-April 1 1997 25.4 inches (April Fools Storm)
  5. January 22-23 2005 22.5 inches (Blizzard of 2005)

Snow amounts will taper to 12-to-18 inches from about Plymouth down to Bourne and also along the extreme South Coast in places like New Bedford.

Read: Top 10 Boston Storms

Over the Outer Cape we are expecting 6-to-12 inches with some coming at the beginning of the event and most of the accumulation happening Saturday midday-evening.

Widespread wind damage and numerous power outages are a near certainty with this event, especially near the coast.

It is very important that you stay tuned to updated forecasts.  While there will be some tweaks to the forecast track and snow amounts, unfortunately there is no chance of this storm being a miss.

Stay Tuned!

You can follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryWBZ.

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