Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NYC Spared, New England Horribly Slammed In Blizzard of 2015

Times Square last night. The storm wasn't nearly as
bad as forecast in New York, but New
 England is getting HAMMERED  
The big headline this morning with the Blizzard of 2015 is New York City went through a giant false alarm and the storm wasn't nearly as bad as forecast.

That's very true and I will get into that in a second. But let's not ignore New England. In some parts of the region, the storm is proving as bad or even worse than the dire forecasts.

The storm causing the New England blizzard was as of 7 a.m. this morning the strongest storm on Earth at the moment.

There's been severe coastal flooding in Massachusetts, winds have gusted so far to as high as 78 mph in Nantucket, a band of snow has set up in eastern New England that is dropping snow at rates of three or more inches per hour and as of 6:30 a.m., thunder snow was being reported in southeastern Massachusetts.

I'm jumping around, but alright, alright, I'll get into what went wrong with the forecast for New York.

I'm sure in one sense they're relieved they didn't get the two or more feet of snow that was forecast, but then they're also pretty mad that everything got shut down, the roads, the subways, for no good reason.

It's expensive when that happens. Highways and other forms of transportation are reopening this morning around New York.

The National Weather Service in Upton, New York, which covers the New York City metro area, had a much trickier forecast to begin with than Massachusetts.

It seemed pretty clear from Sunday on that southeastern New England would get slammed and that has proven true.

But there were questions all along as to how far west the heaviest snow bands would reach, the ones that drop three or four inches of snow per hour.  Most forecasters knew that whoever was just a few miles west of that band of heavy snow would get MUCH less snow, on the order of a foot or so.

The consensus was they'd get to the Hudson River or just west of that. That's right where New York is.

The bands of heavy snow didn't make it quite as far west as forecast. The meteorologists were only off with this by 20 or 30 miles.  Central Long Island is still going to get two or more feet of snow out of this.

Normally people would have hardly noticed such a slight error. The forecast was actually not too bad for this type of storm.

But the fact that New York got missed, with all those people noticing the inaccurate prediction, and the fact that New York is arguably the media capital of the world, means this not-quite-right forecast will be trumpeted far and wide and constantly.

What worries me is the next time there's a dangerous storm of any sort--another blizzard, a hurricane, a super storm like Sandy, everybody will say weather forecasters are crying wolf and not take precautions. That could get dangerous.

I do have to give props to The Weather Channel. Me, the National Weather Service and most other forecasters thought New York was going to get blasted. The Weather Channel, however, played down the amount of snow New York would get.

Lots of us scoffed at the Weather Channel, but they're getting the last laugh. Congratulations to them for getting this forecast right.


Let's turn back to New England which has been getting hammered and continues to get trashed.

Coastal flooding with this early morning's high tide was as bad or even worse than expected. There were evacuations and reports of at least one car floating in the streets of Scituate, Mass., which often takes a pummeling in the severest nor'easters.
Storm surge flooding in Nantucket this morning.  

If I had to pick a town that has so far been hit the hardest, I'd say Plymouth, Mass.

As of 4:30 a.m., Plymouth had gotten 16 inches of snow, it was still snowing incredibly hard and visibility was near zero. Winds gusted as high as 63 mph in Plymouth, and coastal flooding had water three or four feet deep on some Plymouth streets.

A huge band of intense snow (the one that didn't make it to New York City) pretty much stayed put overnight and so far this morning in eastern Long Island, eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, the eastern third of Massachusetts, especially just west of Boston and along the entire coasts of New Hampshire and Maine.

It was still there as of 7:30 this morning,  That will be the zone that ends up with 24 to 40  inches of snow out of this. Worcester, Mass. reports 25 inches of snow. Shrewsbury, Mass., in that band, had already picked up 22 inches of snow as of 7 a.m.. Four inches of that came in just one hour. Incredible!

Not surprisingly, blizzard warnings are still up. 

Worse, the next high tide, late this afternoon, could renew the coastal flooding and be just as bad as this morning's. Even worse, high waves will batter the New England coast all day.

The Boston Globe reports flooding in Scituate, with about a dozen people evacuated, Hull, some significant flooding in downtown Nantucket, and flooding in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, on Martha's Vineyard.

Things will continue totally wild in eastern New England this morning, then the snow will slowly begin to taper off. But only slowly as the incredibly strong storm only grudgingly moves away.

The snow has had trouble making it into northern New England. The arctic high pressure system feeding the cold air into the blizzard also has a lot of dry air, helping to prevent much precipitation in northwestern Vermont.

I'll post updates today as they come in.

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