A powerful – and rapidly deepening – low pressure center will pass by the area on Thursday, yielding several hours of very nasty weather conditions over eastern portions of New England. In anticipation of the upcoming weather event, the National Weather Service has posted a Blizzard Warning for the area, as well as a Coastal Flood Warning.One of the major concerns with this particular storm center will be a period of powerful winds, first from the northeast Thursday morning and then from the north and northwest during Thursday afternoon. Sustained winds of 25 to 45 mph are expected throughout the day on Thursday and frequent wind gusts in excess of 50 mph will occur across all of the Cape. Higher gusts – on the order of 60 to 70 mph – are expected to be recorded in some locations and there is a chance, albeit lower, that a few spots record a wind gust to hurricane force (74 mph or better).
The combination of winds of this magnitude along with falling snow will make for near zero visibility at times Thursday afternoon and make travel nearly impossible for several hours later Thursday. The “first call” snowfall forecast map is available here.
As the atmosphere will initially be relatively mild (compared to what we’ve been dealing with in recent weeks) precipitation will likely start as rain or a mix of rain and wet snow around the Cape, before gradually transitioning to all snow from west to east over the course of the day as temperatures turn colder.
The timing and nature of this transition will play a critical role in the amount of tree damage experienced around the area – and thus, the extent of the related power outages.
Should this weather system trend a bit colder, a greater amount of the falling snow would be drier and lighter (less water content / less heavy) and result in a more manageable/typical build up of snow on limbs and power line (one such system in recent memory that ended up substantially colder than expected was the late January blizzard in 2015).
Unfortunately, right now, that does not appear to be the case. Despite the frigid cold of recent days, odds continue to favor an easterly wind moderating temperatures tonight and Thursday morning, resulting in rain or a mix of rain and snow to start, transitioning to a heavy wet snow during the midday hours of Thursday (first at the canal, last out near Chatham) before drying out later in the day as the atmosphere rapidly cools during the afternoon. Such a set-up raises the risk for heavy wet snow building up on area trees, limbs and power lines and eventually freezing to these surfaces as cold air rushes back onto the Cape.
That type of evolution, when combined with winds gusting in excess of 50 mph, increases the threat for tree damage and resultant power outages around our area.
On the backside of this storm system, arctic air will rush back into the area…with the coldest temperatures yet this season expected Friday into Sunday. It is certainly possible that parts of the Cape dip below zero Friday or Saturday night and daytime temperatures will struggle to climb back to 10F during the day on Saturday.
Lack of electricity and this level of cold raises obvious concerns.
Residents are advised to prepare accordingly today and be ready for a period of nasty weather and scattered to perhaps widespread power outages Thursday afternoon.