Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rain Was Too Much, Too Fast Of A Good Thing In Southern New England

Flooding in Worcester, Massachusetts Friday
evening. Photo from WBZ-TV
Late yesterday afternoon and evening, a slug of very heavy rain moved northward across the eastern half of southern New England.

Those torrential downpours had the effect of causing some dangerous flash floods in the region of the Northeast with some of the worst drought conditions around.

The irony is, the rain came too hard, too fast to actually solve the drought. It just caused a damaging flood.

The worst hit area was in and around Worcester, Massachusetts, where as much as five inches of rain fell in just a few hours.

It hit at or shortly after rush hour, so dozens of cars got stranded in the flash flood. Fire and rescue crews had to rescue quite a few motorists from stranded cars.

The Worcester Telegram reported Interstate 290 was closed by the flooding, as three or more inches of rain poured down in as little as an hour. Many streets around Worcester were blocked by floodwaters.

According to the Telegram:

"'In my 30 years on the job, I've never seen anything like this,' Police Chief Steven M. Sargent said around 11:15 p.m., as he gazed at a huge pond of water that formed under the bridge that runs over MLK Jr. Boulevard. The hood of a car peeked up through the water."

The area around Worcester is under extreme drought, and this flooding rain won't help all that much. It never had a chance to soak into the ground. It came too hard, too fast. It would have been much better if that five inches of rain fell gradually, over the course of a week or two.

Computer models had shown many hours in advance an area of heavy rain, possibly torrential, would move through the area that was hit. But few people imagined that the downpours would be enough to cause more than minor flooding.

By the way, the computer models have been nailing this storm. They caught in advance that relatively small area of torrential downpours that hit southeastern New England last night.

They also caught a day or two in advance the heavy swath of rain - one to five inches of it - across northern and central New York, clipping the northwestern corner of Vermont.

They models also knew the cutoff in that precipitation to the east would be sharp. Alburgh, Vermont reported 1.91 inches of rain by Friday morning, while Fairfax, just 35 miles to the southeast, only picked up 0.39 inches.

Areas that didn't get all that much rain will get more today as a strengthening storm moves north an northeastward today through New England. For instance, Burlington, Vermont had only picked up about a half inch of rain so far as of midnight last night, but it was raining fairly hard there this morning, so that's good.

Cold air is flooding in, and rain will change to snow in the higher elevations of the Adirondacks and northern New England later today.

It's still kind of unclear how extensive and how low in elevation the snow will get. However, mountain peaks across the North Country can get expect six inches, maybe a foot of snow.

Light snow accumulations might go as low as 1,500 feet above sea level.

Early season hikers Sunday should note that even though they might want a taste of winter, I wouldn't go on a summit hike. Expect midwinter conditions up there with snow, temperatures well below freezing, very strong winds and wind chills that could go to near or below zero.

The strong winds will hit the entire New England region later today through Sunday, with winds gusting over 40 mph to strip most of the remaining autumn leaves off the trees.

Foliage season is over.

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