The official start to winter is less than three weeks away, but Mother Nature seems to be ready to bring on the snow already. A rapidly intensifying nor'easter prompted winter storm warnings across much of New England and some of the first blizzard conditions of the season, leading to a slew of power outages and road closures across the region.
This nor'easter comes on the heels of a storm that hammered parts of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes with heavy snow less than one week ago. Not only is this the first nor'easter of the season, but it has the potential to develop into the first blizzard of the season later this weekend, if sustained winds reach 35 mph or greater and the storm creates a visibility less than one-quarter of a mile for three consecutive hours.
Into Saturday night, AccuWeather Meteorologist Maxwell Gawryla said blizzard-strength winds will persist, making the first blizzard conditions of the season for New England.
"The storm will continue to push its way up the coast and, by Sunday morning, will bring about more blizzard conditions into Maine and northern New England," he said.
The storm that brought heavy snow to parts of the southern Plains at midweek re-energized along the Eastern Seaboard and tracked just off the coast of the northeastern United States into Saturday night, putting central and northern New England in the path of the heaviest snow. A storm track just offshore allowed for the storm to undergo significant strengthening, which added to the intensity of impacts across New England.
By Saturday evening, much of New England already had snow accumulation. Bow, New Hampshire, had accumulated 8 inches of snow by Saturday evening. Wakefield, Maine, reached double digits with 10 inches of snow.
As the storm began to strengthen, drenching rain and thunderstorms broke out across the Southeast states and mid-Atlantic region on Friday night. By noon on Saturday, rain started in Greater Boston, while some nearby areas started to see snowflakes.
Road conditions continued to deteriorate across Massachusetts on Saturday as rain started to turn to freezing rain and snow.
Road conditions quickly deteriorating in Palmer, Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon. (Image via MassDOT)
Massachusetts State Police placed speed restriction on I-90 at or below 40 mph between mile markers 55 and 84, through Ludlow and Charlton shortly before noon on Saturday. Shortly after the speed restriction, there was a crash on I-90 in Millbury by exit 10A which prompted the closure of two westbound left lanes.
By 3 p.m., all highway districts in the state were in snow and ice operations and there were over 1,800 pieces of equipment at work on the roads.
Near whiteout conditions on the Massachusetts Turnpike near Warren, Massachusetts, on Saturday afternoon. (Image via MassDOT)
Those who stayed off the dangerous roads were most likely faced with power outages. As the storm kicked off on Saturday afternoon, Massachusetts power outages quickly mounted past 26,000 by the evening. In Maine, outages topped 41,000 and New Hampshire reached 20,000 outages by Saturday evening.
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Forecasters were monitoring for the potential for this storm to go through the process that meteorologists call bombogenesis. A nor'easter is a storm that simply brings stiff northeasterly winds to a broad area along the coast in the eastern part of the United States. Bombogenesis, or rapid strengthening, occurs when the central barometric pressure of a storm plummets by 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. When a storm undergoes this level of intensification, it is referred to as a bomb cyclone.
Regardless of the classification of the storm, winds were powerful enough along the coast in New England and on eastern Long Island, New York, to break tree limbs, knock over poorly rooted trees, lead to sporadic power outages and even cause minor property damage.
As quickly as the storm will arrive early this weekend, it will be just as quick to exit on Sunday. However, blustery conditions will prevail in the mid-Atlantic, and winds are likely to still howl across New England as the snow exits northern Maine, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec.
Chilly conditions are forecast to linger through early next week from the Great Lakes to a large part of the Atlantic coast in the wake of the storm, and that may set the stage for a round of winterlike conditions in areas farther to the south.
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