Right Weather Pro

January 18 – Weekend storm is a major headache

This is the type of forecast that would be infuriatingly frustrating to deliver on television. Even in the biggest pre-storm hype scenarios, the meteorologist usually gets about four minutes to give the full forecast. That is nowhere near enough time to convey all the twists and turns in the weather that is coming to Southern New England this weekend. The communication breakdown between the meteorologist and the viewer adds the perception that weather people don’t know what they’re talking about half the time. Thankfully, I have this forum to lay out the forecast in detail for different geographical areas.

Storm Impacts

  • A burst of snow Saturday evening that changes to sleet and freezing rain in most of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts after midnight
  • Plowable snow likely for most – more than 6″ of snow possible in inland counties – generally north of I-84 and northwest of I-295
  • 1″ or more of sleet possible late at night – especially inland
  • Greatest uncertainty with the forecast is the extent of freezing rain late Saturday night through Sunday morning. Reliable computer models have a narrow band of 0.25-0.5″ icing from CT through RI into SE MA. Exactly where that band sets up is still questionable.
  • It may get warm enough for plain rain near the coast Sunday morning. While still messy, it’s a lot better than getting the glaze.
  • A change back to sleet and then snow is possible between 11 am – 2 pm Sunday with minor afternoon accumulations in strong winds and bitter temperatures
  • Power outages are a concern with the strong winds and potential for glaze on Sunday
  • The storm ends from west to east between late Sunday afternoon and early Sunday evening

When does this thing get underway? The first flakes are likely as follows in the graphic below:

Ok, let’s talk about precipitation type during the storm. The area shaded in purple (basically north of I-84 and northwest of I-295) will see the longest duration of snow before sleet and possibly freezing rain late Saturday night. The darker blue sees 3-6 hours of snow before sleet, freezing rain, and maybe rain early Sunday morning. With 1-2″ per hour rates possible before the changeover, a 3-6″ snow forecast is reasonable. It will be a quicker change to sleet after 2-4 hours of snow near the coast in the lighter blue shaded area.

Hi-res NAM shows sleet reaching the coast between 12-1 a.m. Sunday

That takes us through Saturday night. Below is a graphic depicting how it may look at 8 a.m. Sunday. Blue is snow, orange is sleet, pink is dangerous freezing rain, and green is rain.

Hi-res NAM model

Hopefully, the mild surface air gets a bit farther inland so there’s not so much freezing rain. If this plays out, it will be an icy morning for all but the coast (where there will still be slush/snow on the ground with the rain), and travel will be treacherous. The freezing rain areas would be the slickest.

The temperature will begin to fall quickly from northwest to southeast by around 9 a.m. Sunday. As the temperature plummets, the freezing rain should change to sleet and then snow, but the damage could be done with 0.25-0.5″ glaze possible. Keep in mind, it’s impossible to know at this point exactly where the freezing rain area will be. I suspect it may be farther north than depicted in the graphic above.

The temperature nosedives to the teens to mid 20s by 2-3 p.m., and there will still be some sleet/snow falling. The wind will be howling, with 35-45 mph gusts likely. Expect a flash freeze in the areas that got above freezing. Anything wet/slushy will not dry out before freezing solid. The radar looks quiet by 5-9 p.m. from west to east. It will end first in western CT and last on Cape Cod.

Hi-res NAM radar at 8 p.m. Sunday

The temperature free-fall continues into the night, and it may be near or below zero in parts of western CT by shortly after midnight. The rest of the state and RI/SE MA will be in the single digits to low teens at best. Wind chills will be well below zero – probably -10 to -25°.

Fred Campagna

President and Chief Meteorologist - Right Weather LLC AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist #756 AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist #126

Related Articles

Back to top button