Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cross-Country Snowstorm Has New England As Target, Again

A huge swath of the country from Nebraska
to New England are under various winter storm
alerts because of the next in a series
of storms about to roll through.  
It's getting more and more likely as we speak that southern New England is in for yet ANOTHER sizeable snowstorm.

I'm not going to make a totally firm forecast, but there's a very good chance that some areas that were socked really hard by that blizzard last Monday and Tuesday will get hit with a foot of snow.

With that, and the light snows that fell yesterday and this morning, I'm not sure where people are expected to put the forecasted new snow. All the places to store it having removed it from streets and parking lots are full.

Leaving it on the streets isn't an option, in part because it's not going to warm up and thaw anytime soon.

This storm is a little different than past recent ones because it's not just a creature of the Northeast.


It started in New Mexico yesterday, where the mountains and ski areas got a good dump yesterday, and it's still snowing.

Next, the band of heavy snow will extend roughly along Interstate 80 and Interstate 90 from South Dakota all the way to the East Coast.

Winter storm warnings are in effect now from the southeastern corner of South Dakota, through most of Iowa, the northern half of Illinois and northern Indiana. This includes the cities of Des Moines, Chicago, South Bend and Fort Wayne.

All these areas can expect six to twelve inches of snow between tonight and the end of the day tomorrow.

Snowstorms of that magnitude are disruptive, of course, but at least it won't be as bad as it could be on the East Coast.

The Midwestern areas under the storm warning have been relatively warm recently. In fact it was in the 50s in Iowa and South Dakota a couple days ago. There is little or no snow on the ground in areas expecting a good dump with this new storm.

In fact, ahead of the storm, it's still warm. As of noon, it was still above freezing in Des Moines and Chicago. That will change as the storm rolls in.


The storm is expected to continue pretty much due east along Interstates 80 and 90 all the way to the New England and New York coasts later Sunday and Monday.

This, and points slightly south of that into the New York City metro area and New Jersey, are under the gun.

Of course, forecasts can change, but it looks like up to a foot of snow could fall in areas of Massachusetts that got around three feet of snow earlier in the week.

Extremely cold air will be pressing in from northern New England during the storm, so the snow will likely be light and fluffy, especially the more north you go in the heavy snow zone.

It'll also be quite windy, with gusts up to 40 mph, so the fluffy snow will blow and drift like crazy. Visibility will be awful. Combined with the low temperatures this will be an almost-blizzard, but not quite. Close enough, though.

Even though the snow could end up being relatively light and fluffy, I'm worried about Massachusetts roofs.

This new snow could really weigh things down to the point where we could have structural collapses. If the snow is thick on your roof, now's the time to get it off. Try to get somebody who knows what they're doing if your roof is steep or otherwise tricky.  
OK, it won't be nearly this bad, but parts of
New England that got three feet of snow earlier
in the week could get another foot by Monday.  

Since the storm is coming from the west, not the south, parts of Connecticut and western Massachusetts that didn't get all that much snow in last week's blizzard could get a hammering this time.

Just like last time, it's beginning to look like New York City will be on the edge of the heavy snow zone, so the forecast there is especially tricky. But things will play out differently this time.

Instead of a lack of precipitation, New York will probably get a bunch, but a bad kind. Remember that brutally cold air I mentioned sitting over places like the Adirondacks and Vermont as this storm goes through?

Well, it will bleed south near the earth's surface into the New York City and New Jersey area. Meanwhile, warm air with the storm will glide up and over the cold air.

That could mean a lot of freezing rain, which would of course bring down lots of trees and powerlines.

The irony could end up being that the last storm, which some forecasters said could have been historic in New York, ended up being not that big a deal. But this storm, sneaking up on them, could become more disruptive than the last one.

Predicting where heavy freezing rain will set this far before a storm is tricky. Don't take my suggestions of freezing rain in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southern New York and maybe southern Connecticut as gospel. I'm just saying it's something that has to be watched.


The heavy snow could extend up into southern Vermont, again which didn't much last week, and southern New Hampshire, which DID get a lot. Winter storm watches now extend as far north as the southernmost two counties of Vermont. 

At this point, it looks like the Adirondacks,  northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and western Maine might not get much out of this, maybe a couple inches.

At least as it appears now, the storm track will be too far south to spread heavy precipitation that far north. That frigid air that will be sitting over those spots is also very dry, so snow that does start to fall from clouds will evaporate before hitting the ground during the first hours of the storm.

A caveat: If the storm unexpectedly tracks more to the north than expected, northern Vermont and New Hampshire and the Adirondacks could see heavier snow. Some of the computer models are trying to nudge heavy snow - more than six inches - all the way to northern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.  

So snow lovers in the North: It's still possible, but not all that likely at this point, there you'll get a big dump.

Those northern areas have been getting flurried to death for the past month anyway. There have been no big storms up north, but light snowfalls almost every other day since early January have built up a halfway decent, but by no means outlandish snowcover. Enough for winter sports, anyway.


I don't think anyone in New England will want to partake in winter sports once the storm starts to pull away Monday night and Tuesday.

It will be so, SO cold in New England then, with horrible wind chills, too.

There could be some record cold temperatures in southern New England. Arctic cold gets even nastier and colder when it's over a deep snow pack.

Northern New England won't even get above zero Monday and Tuesday, and it could be in the 20s below in some areas Monday night.

After a brief break in the cold Wednesday, another Arctic blast arrives Thursday and Friday of the upcoming week. It's still unclear whether that new blast will be accompanied by more heavy snows.

We'll just have to get through this storm first.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Englanders: Sick Of Winter? Watch This

Watch and see in the video, below, if this
woman has HAD IT with winter. Add caption
New England seems to be the Big Winter Winner this year.  

Lots of cold. Lots of snow, at least lately, and it ain't going to end soon.

It snowed today. It'll be brutally cold this weekend, there's the risk of another big snowstorm in southern New England Monday, and then even more brutally cold weather, worse than we've gotten so far this winter, is on its way for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I'm freezing my butt off. I've slipped on the ice more times than I care to count, I'm coming down with a cold, and the house is chilly because I don't feel like paying a zillion dollars to keep it warm enough.

I know, I know, whine, moan, complain, why don't you move to someplace warm?

You're right, but there comes a point, right about now in the winter, when some of us have Just. About. Had. It.  The winter breaking point.

Even seasonably cold weather in the 20s would be beautiful. Spring greenery would be nicer.  I spent half of this afternoon simultaneously watching temperatures plummet outside my window and drooling longingly over spring gardening catalogs.

For now, I, and a lot of you, can relate to this video. She should have lashed out harder, though. Watch and see what you think:

Weather Pattern Locked: California Drought, Northeast Winter Worsens

Let's look at the big picture for a minute.
The percent of California in severe drought
dropped from over half the state to a third of the state by
the first of this year. But now, the area
of severe drought (dark red) is increasing again.
All of California is in at least slight drought (yellow) 

For the past few weeks, it's been cold and wintry in the northeastern United States.

After some welcome rains in California in December, it's been bone dry again out there all this month.

It's been quite warm in the western United States for the past few weeks, too.

Reminds me a lot of last winter.

And it should. After breaking down a bit toward the end of 2014, the persistent weather pattern that locked itself over North America most of the time since 2013 is back in place and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.

That's really bad, really grim news for drought-stricken California, and not as bad but still annoying news for the eastern United States, at least for those who don't like winter and are not fans of burning extra fuel and paying more to heat their homes.

Some scientists suggest that these "locked" weather patterns, ones that last much, much longer than normal, are in part a child of global warming. The jet stream usually forms a fairly tight circle around the places well north of the United States.

But as the contrast between a rapidly warming Arctic and not so rapidly warming tropics decreases, the strength of the jet stream weakens, say a lot of scientists. That gives room for unusually big bulges and dips in the jet stream to form and sometimes lock themselves into place.

Scientists pretty much all agree that global warming is taking place, but there is still some disagreement as to whether the warming screws around with the jet stream like I described. But the evidence so far is intriguing, and I know a bunch of climatologists are studying the matter pretty damn closely.  
The news media photographs Frank Gehrke who this week
was not finding much snow, or potential water in the
California mountain snows as he took measurements
for the California Department of Water Resources. 

As I noted, what became colloquially known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge is back along the West Coast. The RRR, as I'll call it, is a big bulge northward in the jet stream, poking way, way north toward western Canada, and at times Alaska.

Storms in the winter usually want to cross the Pacific Ocean then blow through California.

That's what gives the Golden State its annual winter rainy season, when reservoirs fill up. Feet and feet of snow piles up in the Sierra Nevada. That snow gradually melts in the spring and summer, adding more to needed water supplies.

The RRR sitting along the West Coast acts as a roadblock for those Pacific storms, steering them north toward British Columbia. (or sometimes Washington State, which explains why that area had such nasty floods and landslides earlier this winter.)

When the RRR weakened in December, some storms did blow through California, bringing needed rain and snow and raising hopes the drought would ease some.

In January, the RRR came back in force. Really bad. Normally San Francisco gets about four and a half inches of rain in January.

In January, 2015 the rainfall total for San Francisco is going to come to Zero. Zip. Nada. That will make this January the driest on record in the Bay Area. It will also make last January, 2014, the second driest January on record, with a whopping 0.01 inches of rain.

Let's take a journey up to the Sierra Nevada mountains to see how things are going on up there. Maybe we can play in the snow while we're at it.

Um, no.

People with the California Department of Water Resources regularly tromp around the Sierra Nevada mountains, measuring the snow and figuring out how many inches of rain you'd get if that snow was melted.

They just came back with an update yesterday and nobody was happy with it. Overall, water in the California Sierra snowpack is just 25 percent of what it should be this time of year. At Echo Lake in the mountains east of Sacramento, there was just 2.3 inches of "rain" in the snowpack, just 12 percent of normal.

It didn't help that it was also unusually warm in California during January. Some of the scant snow cover in the Sierras melted already.

You can see why all this California dryness is a problem. The California drought has been going on since 2012. The longer things go on like this, the worse things get. They've got to get water from somewhere, and if it doesn't rain or snow, what do you do?

This will affect all of us in the form of higher food prices. Lots of farms in California give us a much of our dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables. No rain, and these things don't happen. That will tighten supplies.

Basic economics comes into play. The tighter the supply, the higher prices go.

January is normally the wettest month of the year in California. The rainy season usually extends through February and March, petering out in April.

So you need a lot of storms to make up for the lack of water they're currently facing. In the immediate future, say, the next week or two, there's no signs of any big storms coming to California.

The RRR is holding firm, and time is running out for rain.

On the east side of the RRR, the upper level winds sweep southeastward along the east face of that ridge, down from near the North Pole to the northeastern United States.  
Plenty of snow here, unlike the Sierra Mountains.
Paul Baxter digs out blizzard-buried cars
this week in Marlborough, Mass.
Photo by Bill Sikes/AP  

That explains the repeated nasty cold snaps that have been sweeping through lately, and will continue to do so through much of February.

There might be some brief intervals of relative warmth between cold snaps, but they'll keep coming for much of the month. Especially up toward New England.

The winds coming southeastward from Canada get to their southernmost point somewhere along the United States East Coast, then start to swing northward again along or just off the coast.

That's where you get storms, where the jet stream swings north again after diving south from Canada over the eastern United States.

The position of that swing north wiggles a little, so some of the storms go out to sea and don't bother anyone on the East Coast. Or they come closer to the coast, and you get what we got in New England on Monday and Tuesday--a blizzard.

Worse, ocean temperatures are warmer than normal off the East Coast. Warmer water tends to create more evaporation and more moisture for storms to work with. The warm water tends to also make nor'easter storms stronger. That's a large part of the reason why the blizzard this past week in New England was so intense.

This could be another consequence of global warming. Ocean temperatures warm up, helping create bigger, wetter storms. Even though global warming are making  winters in general milder, it'll still often cold enough to snow. Global warming doesn't repeal winter. It just changes it.

Although droughts are happening, unusually intense precipitation events like this week's blizzard are also increasing in most of the country, especially the Northeast, says National Geographic magazine, citing various scientific sources.

There will be a continued spray of storms forming along or off the East Coast for much of the rest of the month. It's hard to tell more than two or three days in advance of each one whether they will come close enough to the coast to cause snowstorms or other rough weather, or whether they head out to sea, just leaving the East Coast "basking" in the frigid, dry air from Canada.

One such East Coast storm, borne from a weak system that came across the Great Lakes and was crossing New England this morning, will blow up off the coast and give Maine another humdinger of a snowstorm later today into Saturday. (The rest of northern New England is generally getting three to seven inches of snow from this.)

That storm will propel strong winds and frigid air into New England tonight and tomorrow, prompting lots of wind chill alerts.

Another in the series of storms could affect the East Coast around Monday. The computer forecasting models as of Friday morning were still disagreeing on this one.  It looks like the storm will probably cause a snowstorm somewhere in the eastern United States.

But how big a snowstorm? And precisely where?  Nobody is sure yet. It could hug the coast and give southern New England another unwanted heavy snow. Or it could blow out to sea, just leaving some light snow flurries as a calling card.

If I had to guess, the Monday storm might affect Philadelphia and New York and Long Island the most, but don't hold me to that. The situation is still fluid.

The picky details are hard to sort out. But the big picture - the RRR on the West Coast, and the eastern cold, are here to stay for awhile.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winter Slogs On In New England: Arctic Cold, More Snow

Got snow? New England does. And they're going to get more.  
In the snowy wastelands of New England, it's cold this morning. Really cold. Temperatures were flirting with minus 20 in some northern areas as dawn broke.

Berlin and Whitefield, New Hampshire were at 22 below at 6 a.m this morning.

When there's deep snow, like there is now in southeastern New England, that really makes temperatures drop even more than usual on clear, calm winter nights.

That's the case now. It was around 10 to 12 below in the suburbs outside of Boston at dawn.

It was 16 below in Norwood, Mass and 12 below in Bedford. Brrr!

Next on the New England agenda: Snow. Again.

This next snowfall will mostly target northern New England, especially Maine.

That storm from the west was crossing the Great Lakes this morning, as expected, and will move east toward New England tonight.

Forecasters still think the storm will get much stronger, very fast, once it hits the coast of New England. If anything, it will emerge into the Atlantic a bit further south than I thought yesterday, which means some of the heavier snow might also creep a little further south than I thought yesterday.

Snow forecasts for northern New England have remained consistent since yesterday.

In northern Massachusetts, north of the Mass Pike, especially in the eastern half of the state, there's a winter weather advisory for four to six inches of snow Friday into early Saturday. This includes areas just north of Boston, and in the suburbs that got hit hardest by the blizzard earlier this week.

Usually four to six inches of snow is no big deal in New England. But since the Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire winter weather advisory zone got the most snow out of the blizzard -- three feet of it -- this four to six inches of additional accumulation will be a real pain in the neck.

It's even possible they'll get more than that, if the storm strengthens faster than expected on Friday, or loops a little more south than now forecast before looping north toward the Canadian Maritimes.

Areas well to the south and southwest of Boston will probably only get one to three inches of snow out of this.

Up north, in northern New York and Vermont, which largely missed out on the blizzard earlier this week, and in much of New Hampshire, there will be a mid-sized snowfall tonight through Friday night of three to six inches.

There is a winter weather advisory from this evening through Friday evening for the northwestern half of New York, the northern half of Vermont and all of New Hampshire for that forecasted three to six inches of snow.

A little less might fall down in the southern Champlain Valley toward Middlebury and Rutland, Vermont, maybe two or three inches. In New York's St. Lawrence Valley, the northern Green Mountains and in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the snow could be a little more substantial, maybe five to eight inches.

Then there's Maine. Poor Maine. The southeastern half of the state got pounded by that blizzard earlier this week. Maine, and the Canadian Maritimes, are going to take the brunt of this new storm Friday and early Saturday.

A winter storm warning is up for all of Maine. Another six to 12 inches of snow is expected with this storm across Maine.

By the way, blowing snow is going to be a problem again region wide as the storm strengthens and north winds pick up Friday. Between the new snow and the stuff that's already on the ground, there's going to be a lot of trouble with visibility, and big drifts quickly forming on roads Friday into Saturday.

This storm will fall a little short of being a blizzard, but it will be blizzard like at times. Especially in Maine.

This weekend, it will be brutally cold in New England with some northern areas barely making it to zero Saturday afternoon, with overnight lows well below zero.

Intense winter cold will last all of next week, too, waxing and waning a bit as the week goes on.

Yesterday, I mentioned the possibility of another nor'easter around Monday or so.

The forecasting computer models are still all over the place with this one. Yesterday morning, a lot of the models had New England in the bullseye. Later, many forecasting tools had the storm heading well out to sea to the south and missing New England entirely.

The models are still all totally disagreeing on this potential storm, so it's really anybody's guess as to what, if anything will happen. I have often seen a pattern among the models of promising a storm, backing off, then at the last minute saying, "Oh, yeah, you're going to get a storm after all."

The computer models, at least several of them anyway, did that prior to the blizzard that struck earlier this week.

So, in terms of Monday's forecast, I'll throw my hands up for now and not commit to one line of reasoning or another.

I, along with everyone else, will just wait for more updated forecasts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The People Who Shoveled The Boston Marathon Finish Line

The now infamous photo, probably of Chris Laudani,
shoveling snow away from the Boston Marathon Finish Line.  
There's always sub-stories to major news events, like the New England blizzard this week, and the people who shoveled the Boston Marathon finish line seems to be one of them.

I put a photo of one of the shovelers in this morning's post about the blizzard and forecasts for more snow.

Meanwhile, other media was sleuthing around, looking for the person or person shoveling the finish line. It turns out it was persons.

It started with a photo taken during the blizzard by Philip Hillman, from a window several floors above Bolyston Street in the Charlesmark Hotel, right above the finish line.

The photo showed somebody shoveling, the photo went viral on social media under the hashtag #whoshoveledthefinishline. The Boston Police Department even got in on the act, trying to figure out who the mad shoveler was.

One of them turned out to be Chris Laudani, a bartender at the Back Bay Social Club, says Boston Magazine.

"I only did it to send a message... I love the Boston Marathon and everything it stands for. The finish line doesn't deserve to be covered in snow."

On its Twitter Feed, Ironman Triathlon noted Laudani is a triathlete, having done rather well in the 2013 Lake Placid Ironman, so he clearly has an affinity for athletes like those who run the Boston Marathon.

There are at least two finish line shovelers, says Mashable, citing photographic evidence of one guy in dark pants, another in khakis.

I'm sure the Internet will sniff that person out, too.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post another trend has seized Boston and surrounding blizzard-socked areas. Its Twitter hashtag is #BostonBlizzardChallenge, and involves teens stripping to their underwear and diving into the two or three foot deep snows.

Kids these days.

Hey, New England! Hope You Like Snow Because More Is Coming

Love this photo. Somebody kept removing
snow from the Boston Marathon finish line
during the Blizzard of 2015 yesterday.  
Boston's second Big Dig is underway today The first was that big road construction project that until recently consumed the city for years and years.

Today, of course, is the Big Snow Dig for much of New England.

They'd better dig fast because there's more snow on the way. Definitely a little snow, possibly a LOT of snow. More on that in a minute.

Blizzard of 2015 Recap:

It truly was a historic storm, as advertised ahead of time by the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.  Worcester, Mass. had its biggest snowstorm on record, with 34.5 inches. Boston had its sixth largest snowstorm, with 24.6 inches. The most I've seen so far is 36 inches in Lunenburg, Auburn and Hudson,  Mass.  

Then there was the two rounds of coastal flooding. I'm sure some areas will be declared disaster zones. There's a lot of damage to businesses, homes, roads and utilities.

NECN reports at least two houses have been condemned in Marshfield, Mass. after a sea wall collapsed in the storm and waves battered the buildings.

Just picking up the mess, getting rid of the debris and tons of snow and ice are going to be a huge undertaking.

The blizzard lasted a long time in much of New England, too.

According to the National Weather Service, blizzard conditions lasted 14 hours in Marshfield, Mass., 11 hours on Nantucket, and nine hours in Boston. That's a pretty long time for official blizzard conditions to last in New England.

For conditions to qualify as an official blizzard, falling or blowing snow must reduce visibililty to a quarter mile or less and winds must frequently gust to 35 mph or more for at least three consecutive hours.
A man removes items from a Massachusetts home
damaged by a storm surge and battering ocean waves
during yesterday's blizzard. Photo by Greg Derr/AP  

As I noted, more snow is on the way. Not on the magnitude of this last storm, but still.

The weather pattern lately has featured storms crossing the nation with not all that much fanfare, then blowing into big storms along the New England coast.

That happened last Saturday with the six or so inches of wet snow that hit southern New England. Of course it happened with this Blizzard of 2015. There are signs that it's going to happen again. And maybe again. And perhaps again after that.

We'll take them one at a time.

Storm Number One: 

The first one is coming across the northern United States. It's getting it's act together in the Dakotas now, and will scoot across the Great Lakes then on toward New England Thursday night.

The storm is pretty far removed from the Gulf of Mexico, but it will be able to tap some moisture, so it looks like it will squeeze out 2 to 6 inches of snow in much of  New England Thursday night, Friday and maybe into the first part of Saturday.  

Like the past recent storms, this one will explode into a pretty strong one once it moves toward and off the New England coast.

This one is starting out more north than the other ones, though, so this storm will blow up in the Gulf of Maine, too far north to give Boston, Hartford and New York any kind of big snowstorm. Just light snow and a lot of wind.

However, the eastern two thirds of Maine and much of the maritime provinces of eastern Canada will get a big storm out of this. There's already a winter storm watch for much of Maine for more than seven inches of snow.  
A man battles the weather during the Blizzard of 2015
in Portland, Maine. Maine is at risk for two
more fairly substantial snowstorms within the
next week. Photo by Robert Bukaty/AP  

Since much of Maine got a lot of snow out of the last storm, this one will make a real mess. For example, Eastport Maine got 20.3 inches of snow with six foot drifts with the just ended Blizzard of 2015.  Add another foot to that Friday and Saturday, and possibly ANOTHER foot next week, and you've got trouble.

Storm Number Two

After a shot of bitterly cold air this weekend in New England, another storm wants to get going for Monday and Tuesday. This one will come out of the southwestern United States, go along or near the northern Gulf of Mexico and then ride up the coast as a nor'easter.

It's way too soon to say how strong this one will be, how much snow will fall, and whether some areas will go over to rain.

So far, the forecasting computer models, the ones that are sometimes spectacularly right, and sometimes majorly wrong, are in two camps.

One set of models takes the storm off the coast, focusing any heavy snow near the coast, the areas that got whammed by the Blizzard of 2015. There's even a chance it could go so far off the coast that only light snow would hit the Northeast, but so far, that's not the most likely scenario.

Another set of computer forecasting models would take the storm inland, right over, say, New York City, central New England and on into Maine. If that were to happen, the areas that got hit by the blizzard would get snow, mixed precipitation, then a quick shot of heavy rain. That would be a mess.

Under this second scenario, northwestern New England, especially most of Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and outside New England, northern New York, would get a pretty substantial snowstorm out of this. (These areas only got light snow, on the order of a trace to six inches, out of yesterday's blizzard)

This is a case of just waiting to see what happens. They'll refine forecasts over the upcoming weekend.

Following THIS storm, it looks like what could be the deepest, coldest cold snap of the winter for New England around Tuesday and Wednesday.

Storm Number Three

Signs point to another storm running up the coast late next week. This one is way off in the future. So far, I can't give you much. It might not even happen. It's just the weather pattern, as it looks now, anyway, strongly favors storminess on the East Coast late next week.

I don't yet know if that means a lot of snow, a lot of rain, a lot of ice, a lot of wind, all of the above or even none of the above.  It's just something to keep in the back of our minds while we figure out what's going on with these first two storms.

Incredible Warmth Elsewhere

While the Northeast is dealing with what has turned into a real, REAL winter in the past couple of weeks, the western half of the country is definitely wondering, "What winter?"

On Monday, no fewer tha 86 towns and cities in the western third of the nation had record high temperatures. Yesterday, they had incredible record highs of 83 degrees in Hill City, and 79 in Goodland, both cities in the high Plains of western Kansas.

Oklahoma City had a record high of 78 yesterday, beating the old record of 72. The forecast high in the north Texas city of Wichita Falls, Texas today is 83.

It's been in the 50s the past couple days at my in-laws'  home of Yankton, in southeastern South Dakota, making this Vermonter for the first time ever jealous of South Dakota winter weather. It also has me threatening to move in with my in-laws if this very wintry New England weather keeps up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Evening Blizzard Update

From last night: Nightime satellite view
of the nor'easter. Click on the image to make it bigger
and easier to see.  
There's been such  hue and cry today about how many of the forecasts for New York City incorrectly called for a record or near record deep snowstorm. 

What's being ignored, it seems, is the forecast for New England was almost flawless.

But the media center of the world is New York, not Boston. If it didn't happen in New York, it didn't happen anywhere, despite what you might see out your Havahd Yahd window.

However, the forecast for the eastern half of Massachusetts was for 24 to 36 inches with locally higher amounts. and they GOT 24 to 36 inches. Westford, Mass. has so far reported the most - 35.8 inches.

With snow continuing to fall this evening, there might be a few spots that get more than 36 inches.

The National Weather Service office in Taunton, Mass., near Boston, also said peak wind gusts on Cape Cod and the Islands would be between 70 and 80 mph. The peak gust in this storm was 78 mph in Nantucket.

The NWS also said there would be significant storm surge and coastal flooding today, and indeed there was.

I'm sure other forecasting offices will refine how they make forecasts. The National Weather Service office in the New York City area knew there would be a sharp cutoff of snow amounts as you head west from the Hudson Valley.

They misjudged by only about 30 miles where that cutoff would be, which is actually a good forecast. I just don't think they conveyed to the public ahead of the storm how much uncertainty there was in the forecast

Nor'easter always confound. Up here in Vermont, the forecast was basically right in southern and eastern Vermont was basically right, although snow totals were a little lighter than expected.

Then this afternoon, one of the intense snow bands from the nor'easter broke away, and traveled westward across Vermont, and held together remarkably well, despite having to cross the Green Mountains.  
An unexpectedly heavy snow band on the outer edges
of the big nor'easter passes through St. Albans, in
northwestern Vermont this afternoon.  

The snow band slowed down to a near stall in the Champlain Valley, dumping an unexpected three to five inches of fluffy, windblown snow in just three hours or so.

What are ya going to do, right?

Anticipate more snow. It likes the northeastern United States has an active weather pattern coming up.

A weaker storm coming in from the west could drop another two to five inches of snow, mostly in northern New England.

There's the chance of another nor'easter Monday, but I'm going to hold off on more details with that because things are really, REALLY uncertain as to how that's going to develop, if at all.

And it's going to be wicked cold. Especially early next week, where 30 below zero readings in cold mountain valleys of northern New England is a possibility.

Photos, Videos, Fun Factoids Keep Coming In From Blizzard of 2015

Severe coastal flooding today in Marshfield, Mass.
Storm surge flooding and battering waves
are, as expected, turning out to be the
most destructive part of the Blizzard of 2015.
The Blizzard of 2015 continues to rage in eastern New England as of noon Tuesday and will only slowly diminish during the course of the day.

There's mishmash of factoids, arguments, facts, photos and videos that are coming across that are all pretty interesting, so I'll share them with you.

First of all, click on this colored link for a wind field illustration of the storm center off the coast of New England. Do it now, because the storm is still near its peak and will be the most dramatic.

Pretty awesome.

Eric Holthaus at Slate and others have a pretty good argument as to how this storm could be related to global warming. I don't like to pin individual weather systems on climate change, but it does influence things.
From @Phillip586 on Twitter. Snow inundates a Hyde Park,
Massachusetts street today. 

Here's what Holthaus has to say:

"Ocean water temperatures off the East Coast are much above normal right now, as they have been all year. That's helping to boost the amount of moisture the setorm is able to convert into snow via enhanced evaporation. 

But there's an even easier link to climate change: Sea levels in the Northeast have risen by about a foot over the last 100 years or so, about half of which is directly attributable to warming seas and melting glaciers worldwide. 

There's 100 percent certainty, in my view, that sea level rise is making the impact of extreme coastal storms like this one worse."

You wouldn't think so, but since quite a bit of real estate near coastal areas is barely above normal sea levels, increasing the sea level by just a few inches, then pushing the water inland via a storm, can indeed make things a lot worse.

By the way, Massachusetts isn't out of the woods with this. There was a lot of coastal flooding and some structural damage with this morning's high tide.

Some of this morning's reports include 3.5 feet of storm surge water in downtown Nantucket, four  to five feet of water on a street in Hull, and ankle deep water in the rear of the Sandwich, Mass police department building.
Storm surge flooding in Scituate, Mass. this morning.  

Another round of flooding is due with this afternoon's high tide. As I expected, this will be the most destructive aspect of this blizzard. Lots of damage is being done in coastal New England.

The earlier flooding and 24 hours of battering waves have eroded beaches and buffers against storm tides.

Even though this afternoon's storm surge might be just a smidge smaller than this morning's the lack of defenses could make the flooding worse.

No surprise that coastal flood warnings are still in effect for most of the Massachusetts coast.

Here's what the latest National Weather Service/Boston statement on the coastal flooding, issued around 11:45 a.m. today:



The snow, of course, is still pouring down. The deepest official snow report so far is 30 inches in Framingham, Mass, with many reports of more than 20 inches from Massachusetts, Long Island, eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island and coastal New Hampshire and Maine.

With heavy snow continuing and with Boston already up to 18 inches at last check, the city could break its all time record single storm snowfall of 27.6 inches. And a report of a four foot snow depth from eastern New England is not out of the question by the time this is done.

There continues to be a hue and cry in the media over the fact that New York City did not nearly get as much snow as forecast.

Yes, forecasters should not have so easily dismissed the American computer models in favor of the snowier European computer forecasting models, which up until now have had a better reputation for accuracy (Earned or unearned)

And yes, the media hyped the storm, based on the forecast for New York. But as the Washington Post notes, people are all pissy about this in New York. 

Here's one typical comment on Twitter:

"After NY-based media inundates rest of U.S with blizzard-mania & blizzard becomes bust, no wonder media not trusted and unwanted." 

Since so much of major media is headquartered in New York, the general feeling you get is that since the blizzard didn't happen in New York City, it didn't happen at all.

Tell that to people in Boston, Framingham, Marshfield and Hull, Massachusetts and out in Islip, Long Island.

As to be expected, the least helpful comment about the blizzard and the botched forecast came from Donald Trump, who tweeted: "President Obama, our great leader, wants to declare martial law in New York City as a means of helping out with the 'massive' storm."

Um, is Trump the only person on the planet who thinks Obama wanted to declare marshall law because of the blizzard? Oh I get it. Everything that goes wrong is Obama's fault. And the gays. Always the gays.

Comedian Louis CK chimed in on the storm as well, and he made a good point: Why was the storm called "historic" yesterday when it hadn't even happened yet?  The point being, aren't historic events by definition be things that happened in the past?

I'm a little gun shy at this point of forecasting other storms coming along when this one isn't done yet. As last night's missed New York forecast snows, you shouldn't insist that other big storms are coming

But, lighter snows are likely with a weaker storm due to cross the Northeast Friday, at least as it stands now.

Plus, there's the possibility, JUST the possibility of another nor'easter that could dump many more inches of snow on New England next Monday. That storm certainly won't be as bad as this one, and there's still a very decent chance the Monday storm won't happen at all.

I just want to throw it out there, just so you know in case it does happen.

But we'll have to get through this storm first. Easy for me to say, since so far at my perch at St. Albans, in far northwestern Vermont, I'd gotten no snow until about noon today.

Now, there's a little light snow falling, and there was a report of heavy snow in Montpelier and Morrisville, in central Vermont.

It's gotten windy, too, with gusts to 30 mph and temperatures, not including the wind chill, hovering around 10 degrees. It's a raw, raw, raw day out there.

But at least I won't have to spend the entire day in that weather shoveling three feet of snow. Three inches later today, at most, so that's not bad.

Next some good videos:

Here's what things looked like in Plymouth, Mass this morning:

From Storm Chasing Video, here's Boston early this morning:

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.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Live Blog Blizzard Of 2015

Monday, 1/26/2015, 6:30 p.m.  EST

Last minute shoppers crowd at Whole Foods in New York as
the storm begins late this afternoon.  
The preliminaries are over now and the main show of the Blizzard of 2015 is now getting rolling.

The snow this afternoon was, to put it overly simply, stuff that was related to the storm, but not directly associated with it.

Still, that was good enough to dump 4.3 inches of new snow on New York City's Central Park by 5:30 p.m or so.

The first main band of snow directly associated with the rapidly deepening storm was moving northwestward into far southeastern New England as of 6:30 p.m.

This will continue to press to the north, and other bands of heavy snow will follow.

The storm is still strengthening fast as it lumbers northward off the Middle Atlantic Coast.

Even though New York City probably won't get the most snow of anybody out of this - southern New England will get it worse - there seems to be almost a sense of doom in New York.

All the subways are shutting down at 11 p.m., the first time in memory a snowstorm has done that. (Although they shut the subways down for Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Super Storm Sandy in 2012)

Pictures coming out of New York show long lines of people scrambling to get on public transportion before it all closes down.

There's also a photo of a Whole Foods with a huge scrum of people trying to get in to pick up supplies. (They waited until the storm started to get their stuff?)

Or as one wag on Twitter put it, maybe Whole Foods is now "New York's hottest club."

Broadway goes dark tonight, too. No shows. All shuttered.

By the way, if you're caught driving around New York after 11 p.m. tonight, when a driving ban goes into effect, you could face a misdemeanor charge and a $300 fine.

It'll be interesting to see how much snow New York actually gets. The Weather Channel is calling for 12 to 18 inches, while the National Weather Service says 18 to 24. Some computer forecasting models are backing off on the extreme snowfall in New York, but maintaining the heavy snow in New England.

We'll see.

Monday 1/26/2015, 5 p.m. EST

Weather geeks like me always read the forecast discussions on National Weather Service forecast office sites from all over the country. Especially when a storm is coming or is ongoing.

Forecast discussions lay down the basis as to why NWS meteorologists predicted the weather the way they did. Very often, these discussions are rather technical and science-y.  But they're very useful for clues as to what's going on.

It's reading the tea leaves, and the discussions point out which parts of the forecasts are pretty solid, and which parts will go bust.

Forecast discussions are great for the general public to start reading, too. Especially during this, the Blizzard of 2015. The technical stuff often has links to definitions, so you can follow along.

As an aside, I also like the fact the Forecast Discussions are in all caps. They're YELLING their thoughts.

When something epic happens, like now, forecast discussions can be absolutely epic, with humor, dire warnings -- basically a story.

Such is the case with today's National Weather Service forecast discussion from Taunton, Mass, which covers most of southern New England, including Boston.

First of all, the meteorologists who wrote today's Forecast Discussion are in awe of how fast the storm is strengthening, which give us our shot of humor. They inform us:


But then it's time to get serious, and you almost can't believe how serious this storm is:




Then we get into the coastal flooding:


Mon. 1/26/2015, 4:15 p.m. EST
Contrasts: Things look very stormy at mid-afternoon near
Central Park in Manhattan, via @Anthony Quinano on Twitter...

Conditions continue to deteriorate in the New York City metro area and the snow is spreading north through southern New England.  

Even as a large batch of snow moves north and northwestward from the Atlantic Ocean toward southern New England, that nearly stationary snow band still sits over Long Island and the New York city metro area.

People in the New York area who had expected to deal with light snow as they rushed home ahead of the main body of the storm are now contending with snowfall rates of one to two inches an hour. 

That's not quite the 2 to 4 inches per hour anticipated later, but it's still very disruptive. In any other storm, one to two inches an hour would be a Very Big Deal. the same time, the sky was still bright blue at my
house in St. Albans, in the northwest corner of Vermont
High clouds began to overspread the sky in the past
half hour. Only three or four inches of snow
is anticipated from the storm here in St. Albans.  
As of just before 4 p.m., visibility was down to just 0.15 of a mile at Central Park, New York as the heavy snow poured down. That's the kind of visibility you see in western New York during particularly intense lake effect snowstorms.

Wind gusts are starting to go past 30 mph in some of the coastal regions of Long Island, New York and southern New England.

Some of the updated computer forecasting models have pushed snow totals back up toward 20 to 30 inches in The Big Apple. Some of those models had backed off a little on the snow for New York.

Forecasts have stayed consistent for snow in the 20 to 36 inch range for the southeastern third of New England, including areas around Boston.

The biggest threat continues to be the anticipated strong winds, storm surges and huge waves on Cape Cod, the Islands and other parts of coastal Massachusetts.

You do the math: A storm surge of up to 3.5 feet, 20 to 25 foot waves and winds gusting to 75 mph.

The National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass said the geography of Plum Island, Orleans, Chatham and Nantucket could change as the ocean could cut new inlets and erode a lot of beach.

That dire warning has been a consistent part of the forecast since Sunday morning.

For those who want to watch the snow's progress in New York, Scott McPartland is live streaming the storm in Queens, N.Y. as you can in the video below:

Those of you who want to enjoy the beauty of the snow can view this video taken as the storm started. It's slow motion images of the snowflakes and people in it. Very striking:

Mon. 1/26/2015, 2:25 p.m.

Well, this isn't good.
The "view" from 30 Rockefeller Plaza a short time
ago. The snow has really picked up in NYC.  

During nor'easters, a sort of warm front often sets up near the intersection of land and sea, often near Long Island.

That warm front sometimes focuses heavier snow in a band through the region.

One already seems to be setting up over New York City, northeastern New Jersey and Long Island.

By 2 p.m., the snow had picked up in intensity the snow band over that region is getting larger in area and heavier. The accumulation on the roads might be more than expected as people now try to get home from work before the heart of the storm.

Also, temperatures are lower than forecast in the region, so salt on the roads might not be working as well as hoped.

Speaking of hope, we can hope the snow band setting up temporarily weakens, or moves south or north of the New York City region.

This snow band, setting up a little earlier than expected, isn't a catastrophe, but it does complicate things even more.

Mon. 1/26/2015, 2:00 p.m. EST

"Bombogenesis" has begun.

Barometric pressure is falling rapidly now off the Mid-Atlantic coast as the storm gets its act together in a hurry. Pressure was dropping late this morning at a rate of about 1 mb per hour, which if that held for 24 hours, would just barely make the storm qualify as an "atmospheric bomb."

Now, the pressures are falling faster and faster, certainly quite a bit more than a rate of 1 mb. per hour.   Bombs away!

With the central pressure of the storm dropping, the contrast between that and high pressure in Quebec is increasing. Which means winds are already starting to pick up around New York City, Long Island and southern New England.

Nothing scary yet. Gusts are in the 25 mph range. Just making it raw. But the storm is just forming and is still far away. So you know the wind will get wild late tonight and Tuesday.

Lightning continues to flash quite a bit off the North and South Carolina coasts, more indication that things are progressing pretty much as expected with this storm.

By the way, not to scare you or anything, but there are signs three -- Count 'em THREE! more atmospheric bombs could go off east of New England in the week and a half after this blizzard ends.

Though you never know, the next three bombs, if they happen,  definitely appear as though they would be less explosive than this one, and more importantly, would go off after the initially weak storms get past New England and head into far eastern Canada or more likely, into the Atlantic Ocean east of Labrador and south of Greenland.

That would minimize the chances of more New England blizzards, but the storms would keep light snow and cold temperatures entrenched in the region.

Highest confidence is the one on Friday and Saturday, which could bring some light snow to New England. Ones following next Monday or Tuesday, and the end of next week, are very, VERY uncertain.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has been (understandably)
warning about the storm so much, he got some satire
from The Onion today.  

This info is just to keep you on your toes, is all.  

A bit of humor: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has understandably been in front of the cameras since yesterday, telling people to hunker down, stay off the streets during the blizzard, be careful, heed warnings, etc. etc.

The Onion summed up de Blasio perfectly with this headline and story a little while ago: "NYC Mayor: Reconcile Yourselves With Your God, For All Will Perish In the Tempest."

The Onion satirical article is worth the read 

Mon 1/26/15 12:30 p.m.
Infared satellite imagery from late this morning shows a
blossoming leaf like structure in the clouds off
the East Coast. A sure sign of a rapidly developing storm.  

Nor'easter causing the blizzard is now developing rapidly.

Actually a tad faster and sooner than expected. Eric Holthaus at Slate has a nice explanation of the earlier than expected development of a "negative tilt trough," meaning the storm will slow down and make high end snow totals a little more likely.

Also signs of a fast developing storm: TONS of lightning strikes off the North Carolina coast,  This could very easily lead to thunder snow in the blizzard zone later tonight and tomorrow.

There's also a  huge, blossoming leaf shaped cloud structure off the East Coast, a classic sign of a rapidly developing, soon to be intense storm.

Mon 1/26/15 12:20 p.m.

States of Emergency coming fast and furious

Governor Baker in Massachusetts has just declared a State of Emergency and has imposed a driving ban as of midnight tonight.

@NYScanner reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also declared a state of emergency. The Long Island Railroad shuts down at 11 p.m tonight, too.

Mon. 1/26/15 12:15 p.m. 

NYC Scanner reports that New York State Thruway and all New York State-controlled highways will be closed around New York City starting at 10 p.m. tonight.

Also, U.S. Airways and American Airlines is suspending service at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia as of this afternoon.

There are reports circulating now that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is declaring a state of emergency with this storm. There's wind advisories in central Florida and high surf advisories for parts of Florida's west coast.

The circulation of the burgeoning nor'easter is being felt far and wide.

Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground always has thoughtful takes on weather and climate in his blog Here's his take, posted this morning, on the blizzard. Worth the read.

Mon. 1/26/2015, 11:00 a.m.

Latest computer models seem to bring the deepest snow from the blizzard to central Long Island, much of Connecticut, and part of Massachusetts between about Boston and Worcester.

That's just one round of models, no guarantees that will be the bullseye for heaviest snow with this storm. Just remember everything is on track for a big blizzard.

I've got a couple random public service announcement for you. The first one is, before the snow gets going, run to the ATM to get some cash. In areas with widespread, long lasting power failures (I'm thinking especially Cape Cod) ATMs won't work in power failures. So you'll need cold hard cash after the blizzard to buy stuff.

Also, make sure the gas tank in your car is full. Gas stations don't work in power failures, either.

It'll be cold after the blizzard, and possibly brutally cold early next week. You might get low on heating fuel. Do your fuel delivery guy or gal a favor and shovel a path to the intake pipe.

I mean, you try dragging that heavy hose from the truck up a 75 foot steep hill through three feet of snow.

Mon 1/26/2015 10:15 a.m.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy bans travel in state starting 9 p.m. this evening. I bet other travel bans are in place or coming soon in the Northeast.

Amtrak says its running a normal schedule today, for now, but is going to re-evaluate things later today and tomorrow. Don't count on Amtrak service East Coast tomorrow. Check ahead. 

Really, nobody ought to be traveling in most of New England and the New York Metro area anyway later tonight and tomorrow.

An updated computer model, the NAM has a bullseye of a 50 inch storm total over central Long Island. I don't buy that, but three feet is a good bet in that area.

Mon. 1/26/2015, 10:01 a.m.

Eric Holthaus also has great live blizzard blog going over at Slate. Looks like he's focusing largely on New York so far.

Also, Logan Airport in Boston says no more flights there starting at 7 pm tonight, reports  Flights tentatively scheduled to resume at Logan later Wednesday.

Mon. 1/26/2015, 9:44 a.m. EST:

I'm going to be doing my version of a live blog on the Blizzard of 2015.

I'm a one-man band, so there will be gaps as I work my other jobs and maybe sleep a bit tonight.

But there will be LOTS of fresh updates and info on this one. I'll offer my unique, but accurate and responsible thoughts on this blizzard as it progresses.

I'll send out Tweets and Facebooks posts as I update.

I'll also point you in the direction of other great resources as this storm develops, including other live blogs, forecasts, news sites, storm chasers and anything else that's interesting and helpful.

First update: The visible satellite presentation of this storm is already remarkable, even if it hasn't fully emerged from the Middle Atlantic States to just off the East Coast, as you can see in this post.