Historic Early Season Snowstorm

Snowfall forecast for Saturday - click to enlarge!

Sometimes, you just need to call it what it is. This is straight up a bonafide snowstorm, the likes of which not many people have ever seen or probably will ever see again…because of when it’s occurring. If you showed me these maps, I probably would have guessed mid to late November…still early, but more reasonable. If this storm occurred in December, we’d be talking about a blizzard for the Northeast Corridor. It’s remarkable by every stretch of the imagination.

The snow map is above, and here are a few things to note…especially the 3rd one…

1.) Wind: It will be strong, with our models today suggesting we see some 20-30 mph winds in the interior, with perhaps some 40-50 mph gusts on the coast. This will cause havoc inland, as any sort of wind > 10 mph with heavy, wet snow on trees that still have some leaves will lead to trees coming down and likely widespread power outages in the red area, numerous power outages in the purple area, and scattered outages in the dark blue area.

2.) The Northwest Connecticut into Western/Central Massachusetts corridor looks to be absolutely crushed by this storm. It will likely be an extremely severe hit there and could be one of the worst snowstorms in terms of problems and inconvenience for them in recent memory.

3.) Elevation will play a MAJOR role in this storm. While I have opted to unfilter things a bit regarding snow amounts, I can’t help but feel that there may be a wide and sometimes unbelievable disparity in snow totals in some areas…especially in and around Hartford, CT, Morris County, NJ, the area between Reading and Pottstown in PA, north and west of Baltimore…all places where terrain tends to transition from the more flat Coastal Plain to the Appalachian foothills…this may occur elsewhere as well, especially in valleys, like the Lehigh, Susquehanna, and Connecticut Valleys. You may see some areas with 2-3″ of wet snow…travel 5 miles north to slightly higher terrain and see 6-10″ of snow. It will be that kind of storm…the kind where a truly accurate snowfall forecast map is next to impossible.

4.) The Big Cities will likely see flakes…especially Philly-Boston, but mostly at the tail end of the storm and any accumulation should be minor and mostly on grassy surfaces….though Saturday evening could be comical in some places.

So go load up on supplies for Sunday’s football games, enjoy game 7 tonight, and enjoy the snow while you have it, because warmer air will start melting this stuff as fast as Sunday afternoon.

Yes, It Does Snow in October

Snowfall Forecast for Saturday, 10/29 Storm. Click to enlarge!

It has happened before, and it will happen again. Snow in October I mean. This will probably be somewhat overhyped, given that it is October, but still…this is a very, very impressive storm for this time of year. And given that it’s coming on the heels of a storm that’s currently producing snow in parts of Upstate NY and New England, it makes it somewhat more impressive. So with that said, the computer models we look at have come into much better agreement today with a coastal low developing Saturday and bringing absolutely miserable weather to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. College games may be more entertaining than usual, with Illinois at Penn State and West Virginia at Rutgers (which has seen snow and/or cold rain occur on several of their past meetings…some of which have occurred in December, not October…so blame the NCAA I guess for this).

Anyway, for most of the Big Cities, this will be a cold, miserable rain. Temps starting the day in the upper 30s or lower 40s will fall into the mid 30s….with rain. At times when the rain is heaviest, there may be some wet snowflakes coming down, but accumulation should be nil. Philly and Baltimore could run the risk of a coating in a few grassy spots. But nothing more than that I don’t think.

That’s the higher confidence part of the forecast. It gets lower as you get outside the cities. This is very sensitive to the final track of the storm. We have one shorter term model that insists this thing is going out to sea and being a waste. Fortunately, it’s one of our most unreliable models, so I’m not putting much stock into that right now. The GFS and Euro models…the two bigger boys…are both suggesting a coastal low and producing some rather impressive snow amounts at rather low elevations. There is some risk that the immediate N & W suburbs of NYC and Philly do better in this storm than we might think. This is very out of season obviously, so my gut is to use slightly more rigorous thresholds for snow to accumulate (especially given that you’ve had nary a freeze this year thus far in most areas). But the further north and west you go, the better you should do. I’m up to 3″ at most right now, but there is some potential if the air mass is a little colder or the storm a little further west that these amounts could be a bit higher.

The main area of concern is the northern Lehigh Valley into the Poconos and Northwest Jersey, then into the Catskills and Berkshires, as well as parts of northern Connecticut and central Massachusetts. Provided the storm track stays near where it is now, I think 3-6″ is likely in these areas, with higher amounts a very good possibility as you go up in elevation. This sort of snow is somewhat unimpressive, but given it’s October and many trees are still leafed, a little bit of gusty wind could cause a lot of problems with a very heavy, wet snow coating trees/power lines. So this is why this storm is somewhat of a concern and of interest.

A couple things to keep in the back of your mind: It’s October and it is not easy to accumulate snow this time of year. There are many factors working against it. But this may be the rare instance where it works really well. Secondly, the final storm track will obviously be what determines who gets what. The models have been…for lack of a better word…awful the last few weeks. So there is some risk that they may be flat out wrong. But, given past experience, typical biases, and recent trends, this is where we stand 48 hours before it occurs.

So stay tuned…I may not draw up another snow map for this event, but this is a good jumping off point. Enjoy this first taste of winter!

On Facebook!

First Winter Storm of 2010-2011 in the East

I’ve always been a fan of out of season snow events. That’s not to say that mid-October is out of season in the mountains of New York and New England, but it still feels awfully early, especially when it was 102 degrees inland here in SoCal yesterday. Still it looks favorable that somewhere in the Southern Greens, Berkshires, or eastern Adirondacks above 2,000′ or so is going to end up with a pretty decent amount of early season snow. This is always an issue because with the nor’easter, you’re also going to have wind and with the water content of the snow high, this is a perfect recipe for power outages, downed tree limbs, etc.¬† Fortunately these are fairly sparsely populated areas being impacted. Additionally, this storm looks to dump a lot of rain. It looks like 1-3″ of rain on average from Eastern NY into New England. Should be a pretty dynamic storm to say the least.

There might be another brief  dose of wintry type weather, possibly some early season lake effect precipitation, as we go into next week. Either way, it looks cooler than it has been in the East.

What will be interesting is whether this is just another nor’easter or hinting at what could be a favored storm track heading into the cool season. Very often, these early storms prelude what ends up happening…not to say that this is, but it is at least worth noting. One major difference between this nor’easter and what was seen much of last year is that the heavy precip from this will fall in New England (last autumn and winter, this was displaced much further south). This is something we’ll have to keep an eye on going forward.

Winter Storm Watch for the mountains of NY, MA and VT (NWS Burlington has a policy to not issue watches just for their mountains, but the spine of the Greens could get spanked in this storm).

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ALBANY NY
412 PM EDT THU OCT 14 2010

MAZ001-NYZ032-033-042-047-051-058-063-082-VTZ013-014-151000-
/O.NEW.KALY.WS.A.0008.101015T1200Z-101016T2200Z/
NORTHERN BERKSHIRE-NORTHERN HERKIMER-HAMILTON-NORTHERN WARREN-
SCHOHARIE-WESTERN ALBANY-WESTERN GREENE-WESTERN ULSTER-
NORTHERN FULTON-BENNINGTON-WESTERN WINDHAM-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...PITTSFIELD...NORTH ADAMS...ATWELL...
BIG MOOSE...EAGLE BAY...MCKEEVER...NOBLEBORO...NORTHWOOD...
OLD FORGE...SPECULATOR...WARRENSBURG...COBLESKILL...MIDDLEBURGH...
ALTAMONT...HUNTER...TANNERSVILLE...WINDHAM...SUNDOWN...
ELLENVILLE...WOODSTOCK...WEST HURLEY...KERHONKSON...NAPANOCH...
PHOENICIA...NORTHVILLE...MAYFIELD...BENNINGTON...JACKSONVILLE...
NEWFANE
412 PM EDT THU OCT 14 2010

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM FRIDAY MORNING THROUGH
SATURDAY AFTERNOON...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN ALBANY HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM
WATCH FOR ELEVATIONS ABOVE 2000 FEET...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM
FRIDAY MORNING THROUGH SATURDAY AFTERNOON ACROSS THE SOUTHERN
ADIRONDACKS...NORTHEAST CATSKILLS...AND HELDERBERGS...THE
SOUTHERN GREEN MOUNTAINS...AND NORTHERN BERKSHIRES.

RAIN IS EXPECTED TO MIX WITH...AND EVENTUALLY CHANGE TO WET SNOW
ACROSS HIGHER ELEVATIONS WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...BEGINNING FRIDAY
MORNING ACROSS THE SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS AND NORTHEAST
CATSKILLS...AND ACROSS THE SOUTHERN GREEN MOUNTAINS AND NORTHERN
BERKSHIRES FRIDAY AFTERNOON. PERIODS OF SNOW...POSSIBLY HEAVY AT
TIMES...WILL CONTINUE INTO FRIDAY NIGHT...BEFORE GRADUALLY
TAPERING OFF SATURDAY.

THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 7 INCHES OR
GREATER WITHIN THE WATCH AREA. THE WEIGHT OF WET SNOW MAY BRING
DOWN TREE LIMBS...ESPECIALLY IN AREAS WHERE LEAVES REMAIN. THIS
MAY RESULT IN SOME POWER OUTAGES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT
SNOW...SLEET...OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL.
CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.