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Historic Nor’Easter to Wallop New York, New England

By: Jeff Masters and Bob Henson 4:22 PM GMT on January 26, 2015

Observations and model output over the last few hours continue to point toward a snowstorm/blizzard tonight and Tuesday that will affect tens of millions of Northeasterners with potential record snowfall, extremely high winds, and significant coastal flooding. Snow was quickly developing on Monday morning across the New York metro area and southern New England. Below is a summary of the potential impacts from this major weather event. We will provide frequent updates as the storm unfolds through a live blog created by Weather Underground’s Shaun Tanner.

Snow amounts: holding firm
Computer models continue to vary somewhat in the placement and intensity of this storm’s heaviest snowfall. However, the big picture has not changed appreciably. A strong upper-level wave of low pressure in the atmosphere moving toward the mid-Atlantic coast is the main driver of the impending blizzard. On Sunday, a fast-moving, intense line of thunderstorms developed over Mississippi and Alabama, bringing severe wind gusts (58-59 mph) at the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham airports. The fact that such strong thunderstorms could develop in relatively cool, dry air suggests how powerful this upper-level wave is.

As the wave pivots around a much larger upper-level low stationed in eastern Canada, it will generate a surface low off the mid-Atlantic coast that will rapidly intensify tonight and Tuesday. Together, these features will generate very strong dynamics and rapid snowfall rates, with the heaviest amounts expected along a broad swath from northern New Jersey to southern Maine. Throughout this region, a foot or more of snow is likely, and some areas could receive 24” or more. The placement of the overall swath of snow will be determined largely by where the upper-level and surface features evolve, and especially by how far east or west they are. While there is still some model uncertainty here, the surface low is expected to move very slowly while at peak intensity just southeast of Long Island and Cape Cod. The New York area is toward the southwest end of the snow swath, so the overall east-west placement of the overall storm will be vital to how much snow falls there.

Within the overall snow swath, the heaviest amounts will hinge on where persistent bands of snow (mesoscale bands) develop. It is still too soon to know exactly where these will take shape. In a Monday morning discussion, National Weather Service forecasters in Boston noted the possibility of parallel bands of very heavy snow, with an outer arc located inland (perhaps from central Massachusetts to interior Maine) and another band closer to Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, where a coastal front will separate milder marine air from the frigid inland air. Later today, the new High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model will provide increasingly detailed guidance on where the mesoscale bands may develop. The HRRR model is updated every hour using radar data and other current observations.

Here are some current ranges of snowfall being predicted in NWS local forecasts:

New York: 18 – 24”
Providence: 20 - 30”
Boston: 20 – 30”

These numbers suggest that the storm has a good shot of placing in the top-ten list for heaviest snow accumulations at all three of these cities. For a summary of top snowfall events at New York, Boston, and Providence, see our live blog post.

As indicated by the ranges above, no single number can capture the range of possibilities in a rapidly evolving, highly dynamic storm like this one. Another way to view the potential is through probabilistic maps, such as the experimental ones posted by NWS/Boston on its winter weather page. Drawing on model guidance, these maps indicate the likelihood of a given amount of snow in two ways:

--What are the least, most, and most probable accumulations one could expect?
--What is the likelihood of exceeding a certain accumulation?

In these experimental maps, virtually all of eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island show a 100% chance of at least a foot of snow, and the odds are 80-90% that most of these areas will receive at least 18”.




Figure 1. Experimental guidance on potential accumulations from the unfolding nor'easter, posted on Monday morning, January 26, by the National Weather Service forecast office in Boston. The maps show the lowest 10% (top) and highest 10% (bottom) of potential accumulations that one might expect from this storm based on computer model guidance. Image credit: NWS/Boston.

A storm surge of 2 - 4 feet and waves up to 31 feet high
The blizzard will feature a powerful low-level jet stream of strong winds that will dip close to the surface over the offshore waters of New England on Tuesday, bringing sustained winds of 40 - 50 mph with gusts as high as 75 mph to the waters of Southeast Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. These winds will create huge waves 26 - 31 feet high along the east coast of Cape Cod, and 7 - 13 feet high along more sheltered parts of the coast. Ocean-facing barrier beaches of Long Island, New York will see waves of 7 to 12 feet. A storm surge of 2 - 4 feet is expected along the coast from Maryland to Maine. The combined action of the storm surge and waves will cause coastal flooding and severe beach erosion, and could cut new inlets through exposed east and northeast facing barrier beaches in Southeast Massachusetts. Moderate coastal flooding will occur at many coastal locations during the Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon high tide cycles in Southeast Massachusetts, with a few areas of major flooding possible during the Tuesday morning high tide. The difference in water levels at Boston between low and high tide is twelve feet, so a storm surge arriving at low tide will do little damage, while a storm surge arriving at high tide has the potential to cause significant damage. According to the Monday morning runs of the National Weather Service's experimental storm surge model for extratropical storms, the peak storm surge in Boston is predicted to occur about 2 - 3 hours after the 4:30 am EST Tuesday high tide. A storm surge of 3.0 - 3.5 feet is expected, which should cause mostly moderate flooding. However, if the timing of the storms’s strongest winds shifts just 2 - 3 hours earlier, the storm surge could arrive at high tide, causing widespread major flooding along the coast and considerable damage. Even in this worst case scenario, the coastal flooding in Southeast Massachusetts should not be as great as that of the great Blizzard of 1978.

Significant storm surges of 3 - 4 feet are also predicted to occur along the coasts of New York and Connecticut in Long Island Sound, causing mostly moderate coastal flooding. Monday morning storm surge model runs show a storm surge of about four feet hitting Bridgeport, Connecticut and Port Jefferson, New York near high tide on Tuesday morning.


Figure 2. Forecast wave heights for 10 am EST (15 UTC) Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from the 2 pm EST (18 UTC) Sunday January 25, 2015 run of NOAA's Wavewatch III model. Significant wave heights of 7 - 8 meters (23 - 26 feet, yellow green colors) are predicted for the waters just offshore from Boston, Massachusetts.

Bob Henson and Jeff Masters

Winter Weather Blizzard Juno

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

1001. barbamz
As a little recompense now some additional flakes in NYC:
http://nyharborwebcam.com/

The melting process has begun.
1003. sar2401
Quoting GTstormChaserCaleb:
...Middlesex County... Framingham 30.0 1010 am 1/27 ham radio

Totals still coming in, but likely 3' in some spots of Massachusetts.

Remember with snowstorms, some places will receive more than other places and there is usually a sharp cutoff in those places that do not receive the amounts forecasted. Some need to chill out and stop freaking out this morning and try to understand how snowfall distribution works, it's the same that goes for rainfall distribution.
I don't think anyone is disputing that the MA and CT totals are going to be close to predictions. The "sharp snowfall cutoff" works for some place in that area when some get higher and lower totals. It doesn't work for 6" in Central Park or 4" for Philly. As I wrote earlier, when the head forecaster of the Philly WFO goes on Twitter at three in the morning to make a public apology for the blown forecast, there's not much else to say.
Quoting 892. beell:

NWS Eastern Region Snowfall Reports

That's a neat link. And interactive. And you can go back and look at archived storms, 2012 and 2013 at least. Here's a wind graphic from the reports in so far.

image credit: NWS Eastern Region
Quoting 995. schwankmoe:



in general it's a good idea to avoid the comment sections on news stories at sites like CNN, yahoo, cnbc etc. they make you weep for humanity.

I know - just posted (#1000), mentioned Yahoo. Seems we are like-minded in that respect.
About Coastal flooding, the Forecast was 13.8, actual 14.5
http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo =box&gage=sctm3
may not bear well for this evening high tide.
1007. sar2401
Quoting DonnieBwkGA:
The winners so far.
Framingham, Middlesex county, MA 30.0"
Nantucket, wind gust 78 mph.

Check out the weird text about the timing of fog in this forecast.

Today Snow with areas of blowing snow. Areas of fog before noon, then Areas of fog between 1pm and 3pm. Areas of freezing fog between noon and 1pm, then Areas of freezing fog after 3pm. High near 29. Very windy, with a north wind 43 to 45 mph, with gusts as high as 75 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.
Looks like a forecaster running on too much caffeine and not enough sleep.
Quoting GTstormChaserCaleb:
...Middlesex County... Framingham 30.0 1010 am 1/27 ham radio

Totals still coming in, but likely 3' in some spots of Massachusetts.

Remember with snowstorms, some places will receive more than other places and there is usually a sharp cutoff in those places that do not receive the amounts forecasted. Some need to chill out and stop freaking out this morning and try to understand how snowfall distribution works, it's the same that goes for rainfall distribution.


It was the fact that this storm was expected to hit New York City that made it a major news event.







Quoting 994. DonnieBwkGA:

The winners so far.
Framingham, Middlesex county, MA 30.0"
Nantucket, wind gust 78 mph.

Check out the weird text about the timing of fog in this forecast.

Today Snow with areas of blowing snow. Areas of fog before noon, then Areas of fog between 1pm and 3pm. Areas of freezing fog between noon and 1pm, then Areas of freezing fog after 3pm. High near 29. Very windy, with a north wind 43 to 45 mph, with gusts as high as 75 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.


LOL - had to read that several times
Hey, it's me on Cape Cod. I can't find a forecast to save my life. Storm seems to have moved more eastward, I don't think it's turning to rain, am I correct?

Horrible sleep last night, the wind sounded and sounds like a freight train. I thought the roof was going to go a few times.
vary hvy snow falling in boston right now may be 2 too 3" per hr or more i love following snowstorms there fun too track !
Quoting 984. barbamz:


To be true, I'm a bit envious when thinking of our mostly grey and still quite mild winter in the German plains :-)


Me too - it's quite pretty there. Like a winter wonderland.
My winds are currently 43 mph with gusts to 62.
Crap - found it.

This Afternoon Snow with areas of blowing snow. Areas of fog between 1pm and 4pm. Areas of freezing fog before 1pm, then Patchy freezing fog after 4pm. High near 28. Windy, with a north wind 34 to 38 mph, with gusts as high as 65 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible.

Tonight Snow, mainly before 2am. Patchy fog between 7pm and 9pm. Patchy freezing fog before 7pm. Low around 13. Wind chill values as low as -1. Windy, with a northwest wind 23 to 28 mph decreasing to 16 to 21 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 49 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.
1015. Drakoen
We received 2.5 inches here in Silver Spring. They did a good job of clearing the roads. Saw the trucks out before I went to bed.

Thursday looks like a possible brief shot of snow. Early next week's system would give us a cold rain unless the system pans out like the GGEM. Needs a southern trend on this system (i.e. Stronger high coming down from up North).
1016. barbamz
Quoting 1013. klaatuborada:

My winds are currently 43 mph with gusts to 62.


Hey, thought of you last night! Stay safe in your wild weather!

Here's the busted 12Z Euro forecast showing 2ft. of snow for NYC.
Current Worcester MA total is 26.0" as of 9:43 a.m. This is the 4th heaviest snowstorm on record for Worcester.

1 March 31-April 1 1997 33.0"
2 December 11-12 1992 32.1"
3 February 8-9 2013 28.5"

Can Worcester get to a new record? Probably not. Boston is getting steady snow but has a long way to go.



1020. ncstorm
LOL..

true story..

~

Long Island New York snow blizzard 2015

Published on Jan 27, 2015 By Warpath Will
Suffolk County got hit hard!
Quoting 1016. barbamz:



Hey, thought of you last night! Stay safe in your wild weather!




Thanks barbamz. I'm amazed we have power. It's flickering a lot, and the winds have been scary since yesterday. I could work from home today, but it's too stressful right now. You sleep, but you're ready to jump up and take care of things in an instant.
Update # 2 from Portland Maine. temp 11.5 deg. winds seemed to have died down some. only the occasional strong gust, guessing mid 20's in speed. Steady snow, mostly blowing, but heavier than my earlier post. Hard to tell how much as a lot of drifting. Front of the car has bare ground, back of the car is up to the bumper... so notphing like pictures being posted from Mass. Seems more like a typical strong winter storm for Portland Maine, which is fine by me. I will try to post some photos later...

I appreciate all the great info being posted by others.
but a potentially better chance with a stronger system on Sunday - CWG, Interesting wording but 5-6 days away.
Quoting 1025. Climate175:

but a potentially better chance with a stronger system on Sunday - CWG, Interesting wording but 5-6 days away.
This weekend (particularly Sunday) and next weekend I have important things coming up...and nature just LOVES to screw up my plans.
1027. ricderr

Ok, I'm new to this, so I apologize if there are too many questions for one post, but here they are.

So far, has anything about this storm been historic?
I understand the need to over warn the public at times, but wasn't this "hype" a little excessive?
I have followed WU for years and I have never found them to play into this hype, but here is Jeff Masters himself, calling the storm "historic" before it has even begun. Do you think this is due to their affiliation with TWC?


cam...i think you stopped at the blog header and failed to read or credit the rest of the blog......so let's break down your questions.....

I understand the need to over warn the public at times, but wasn't this "hype" a little excessive?

except for new york city...the major areas that were forecast to be impacted were...and nyc could have been impacted as forecast....now...i will say the mayor of nyc blew it...his statements did show that he has no knowledge of nyc weather history...but he's a politician.....as for the nwc...the local mets...and the blog here...i can not find that it was overhyped...especially that most of what was forecast did happen.....we had coastal flooding...winds above hurricane force....and major snow in populated areas with amounts as forecast....it's the exact opposite of what many times happens here...a guy makes 10 forecasts...gets 9 wrong...but jumps up and down on the one right saying lookee here.....i told you so!....from what i can see....they only got one wrong....but even so....the chaces of the one wrong being right....was there...

I have followed WU for years and I have never found them to play into this hype, but here is Jeff Masters himself, calling the storm "historic" before it has even begun
once again...that's the header....if you read the entire blog....there is a great explanation of why this storm has the chance to meet criteria of historic

Do you think this is due to their affiliation with TWC?

i don't as a rule play into conspiracy theories.....but i bet you this....if you go to the top right section of this blog...there's a link called...contact this author....i'm willing to lay odds...you contact doc masters...and ask him if he's told what to write or how to write his blog...he would give you an honest answer
1028. Patrap
..cuz itsa Jungle out dere'







Mount Washington Weather
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27 2015 11:39 AM
CURRENT SUMMIT CONDITIONS

Temperature: -2°F
Gust: 104 mph
Wind: 94 mph
Wind Chill: -41°F
Direction: 60°(ENE)
Updated:

Middlesex County, MA - 30 in
Worcestor County, MA - 26.5 in
Windham County, CT - 22.5 in
Hartford County, CT - 21.5 in
Providence County, RI - 21 in
Plymouth County, MA - 21 in
Suffolk County, MA - 20 in
Tolland County, CT - 19.5 in
Bristol County, MA - 19.5 in
Norfolk County, MA - 19.4 in
Barnstable County, MA - 19 in
Essex County, MA - 19 in
Norfolk County, MA - 18 in
Dukes County, MA - 16 in
Kent County, RI - 16 in
Newport County, RI - 16 in
Washington County, RI - 15 in

(Source)
1031. sar2401
Quoting klaatuborada:
Hey, it's me on Cape Cod. I can't find a forecast to save my life. Storm seems to have moved more eastward, I don't think it's turning to rain, am I correct?

Horrible sleep last night, the wind sounded and sounds like a freight train. I thought the roof was going to go a few times.
I know what you mean about the wind. I hated it when we'd get really strong Santa Ana winds in California that would blow all night long. For some reason, it set off the coyotes, so I'd lay in bed listening to the wind, the coyotes, and the roof joists groaning. It looks like there's about zero chance of any of this storm turning to rain. I hope things start to calm down for you soon.
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Quoting LAbonbon:
Updated:

Middlesex County, MA - 30 in
Worcestor County, MA - 26.5 in
Windham County, CT - 22.5 in
Hartford County, CT - 21.5 in
Providence County, RI - 21 in
Plymouth County, MA - 21 in
Suffolk County, MA - 20 in
Tolland County, CT - 19.5 in
Bristol County, MA - 19.5 in
Norfolk County, MA - 19.4 in
Barnstable County, MA - 19 in
Essex County, MA - 19 in
Norfolk County, MA - 18 in
Dukes County, MA - 16 in
Kent County, RI - 16 in
Newport County, RI - 16 in
Washington County, RI - 15 in

(Source)


During the Lake Effect snow event in Buffalo the NWS didn't count "ham radio" and "trained Spotters" as "official storm totals."
1035. MahFL
The eye of the storm...

1036. sar2401
Quoting LAbonbon:
Updated:

Middlesex County, MA - 30 in
Worcestor County, MA - 26.5 in
Windham County, CT - 22.5 in
Hartford County, CT - 21.5 in
Providence County, RI - 21 in
Plymouth County, MA - 21 in
Suffolk County, MA - 20 in
Tolland County, CT - 19.5 in
Bristol County, MA - 19.5 in
Norfolk County, MA - 19.4 in
Barnstable County, MA - 19 in
Essex County, MA - 19 in
Norfolk County, MA - 18 in
Dukes County, MA - 16 in
Kent County, RI - 16 in
Newport County, RI - 16 in
Washington County, RI - 15 in

(Source)
That's quite a range in Worcester County. All the way from 6" to 26". It's a big county though, as I'm sure you know, that takes up about half of Massachusetts, so it's probably a pretty good proxy for those areas not on the immediate coast.
For those that do not like the cold and the snow, here is what my area looks like

The webcam is at The San Jacinto Battlefield, just west of Houston. You can see the Battle Ship of Texas and The San Jacinto Monument.

Current Conditions:
Temperature: 77 degrees
Feels like: 77 degrees
Winds: 4mph WNW
Humidity: 28%
Clear Skies
Pressure: 30.09
Visibility: 10 miles
Dew Point: 42 degrees
UV Index: 2 out of 10
1038. vis0

Quoting 953. sar2401:

LOL. We should have a rule just for today. If you post it was completely clear yesterday what would happen today, you have to provide a link to a post where you said that in the right timeframe. Otherwise, you get a six hour ban for fibbing. :-)
It was clear to me by TOMMORROW that yesterday's weather was going to happen... DO I GET six hours of free netflixs?

YES!, but these are my choices for the 6 hrs?  Rocky 20 thru 24, The Dark night rises,  : - (.
Mount Washington Weather
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27 2015 11:39 AM
CURRENT SUMMIT CONDITIONS

Temperature: -2°F
Gust: 104 mph
Wind: 94 mph
Wind Chill: -41°F
Direction: 60°(ENE)
Mount Washington Weather
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27 2015 11:39 AM
CURRENT SUMMIT CONDITIONS

Temperature: -2°F
Gust: 104 mph
Wind: 94 mph
Wind Chill: -41°F
Direction: 60°(ENE)