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This Snowstorm ‘Will Make History’

By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer
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BOSTON (CBS) – Did you wake up this morning and for a brief second think it was all just a bad dream? Perhaps you glanced outside and saw bare ground and for just a moment considered going about your day as you would any other normal day?

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

Maybe you even got so far as to start the coffee and flip on the TV (hopefully to WBZ) and that was just about when reality hit home.  Scrolling on the screen you saw hundreds upon hundreds of school closings, a near unprecedented number before a flake had even fallen in many areas. You heard Melissa Mack using words like “historic” and “epic” and you had to do a double take when the map of 24-to-30 inches flashed on the screen.

It is happening.

All systems are go.

Your Questions: Ask The Weather Team

This one ain’t going out to sea.  The rain-snow line isn’t going to miraculously charge inland. We are going to make history with this one.

Gallery: WBZ Storm Forecast Maps

The flakes started to fly in many areas before dawn Friday morning, but the actual storm, the main event, has yet to arrive.

TIMELINE

Light-to-moderate snow will blanket the area by late this morning and by lunchtime it will be snowing just about everywhere in Southern New England.

Evening

By 5 p.m. the intensity will be increasing hour-by-hour and some very heavy bands, up to an inch per hour, will be rotating from south to north. Travel will be getting tricky. I would severely recommend that you get off the roads by this evening.  A blizzard is nothing to take lightly.  The road in front of you can vanish into white within a matter of minutes and visibility can drop to near zero with nearly no warning.

Blizzard conditions will become more and more widespread after 8 p.m. Winds out of the east-northeast will gust to 50 mph or greater, whipping the heavy snow into a frenzy.  Gravity will no longer matter, the snow will be flying up, down and sideways. This will continue all night long.

Snowfall rates will increase to 2 and 3 inches per hour, perhaps even greater in the most intense snow bands.

Morning

By dawn on Saturday most locations will already be near 20 inches, but good luck measuring with a ruler.  The winds will create drifts several feet high in some spots and near bare ground in others.

The snow will continue Saturday morning, very heavy at first and then, gradually begin to relent.

By late morning, as the center of the storm finally begins to pull away, the snow bands will take a north-to-south orientation. There will be some breaks between bands where it will snow very lightly or perhaps even stop for a brief while.

Afternoon

By early afternoon, most of the snow bands will be confined to the coastline and in particular over Cape Cod where they will attempt to make up for lost time and some mixing that occurred overnight.

It will be safe to start the cleanup late afternoon with accumulation all but over with the exception of Cape Cod. No doubt, we will be cleaning up for days to come, moving snow from sidewalks and driveways into huge snow banks at street corners, backing out of your driveway will become an adventure for a while.

ACCUMULATION

When all is said and done we expect an average of 18-to-24 inches to have fallen across most of southern New England.

Over Cape Cod where snow will mix with rain at times Friday night there will be closer to 12-to-18 inches in places like Falmouth and Sandwich.

Farther east towards Chatham we expect 6-to-12 inches and over Nantucket only about 3-to-6 inches.

WINDS

Unfortunately, snow will not be the only issue with this storm.

Winds will gust to hurricane force (over 70 mph) over most of Cape Cod Friday night and Saturday morning.

Frequent gusts between 40-60 mph will batter the entire East Coast and southeastern Massachusetts.

Even locations well inland, north and west of Boston, will see gusts 20-40 mph all night and most of the day on Saturday.

COASTAL CONCERNS

This powerful onshore wind at the coastline will work to pile up the Atlantic Ocean waters along the east and northeast facing shoreline, particularly during high tide times.

The first high tide of concern will be around 10 p.m. Friday. The storm surge tonight will be on the order of 2-to-3 feet and seas just offshore will rise to 15-to-20 feet.

Overall, we expect minor to moderate coastal flooding tonight.

The Saturday morning high tide (around 10 a.m.) is our greatest concern due to the astronomical height being nearly a foot and a half higher than Friday night.

Storm surge values will again be 2-to-3 feet, but closer to the South Coast and, in particular, the north side of Cape Cod could experience a surge over 4 feet.

Seas just offshore will rise to 25-to-35 feet.  All of this will make for moderate to major coastal flooding. Many vulnerable shore roads will be completely washed out.

Beach erosion will also be a major factor, most notably in the Plum Island area, from Scituate to Plymouth and Sandwich, also the Outer Cape including Chatham and the east shore of Nantucket.

There will be some structural damage and numerous power outages from this storm. Widespread wind damage is certain along the coast and inland as well.

Clearly this is not a storm to be taken lightly.  If you have not already completed your storm preparations you should do so immediately.

Read: Preparing For The Storm

This storm will be one that you will remember, for better or worse, so my best advice, try to make this a happy memory and please stay safe.

You can follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryWBZ.

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