A significant winter storm slowly making its way toward New England is set to arrive Sunday, impacting people hoping to get home after Thanksgiving during the year's busiest travel weekend. It is predicted that the area will see a mix of heavy snow, freezing rain, and strong wind gusts.
It will be a long-duration nor'easter, with the region under its grip for 24 to 36 hours. The storm looks like it will be the first significant snowfall for some cities in southern New England.
Here's what you need to know about the powerful storm headed our way:
When does the storm arrive to New England?
A cold start Sunday morning sets the stage for the high impact storm arriving from southwest to northeast late morning through the evening. The first snowflakes will fall Sunday afternoon, arriving in western Connecticut by lunchtime. It will evolve into a wall of snow and move along Interstate 90 from Springfield, arriving in Boston by 4 p.m., if not sooner.
The snow will begin in western Massachusetts between noon and 1 p.m.; central Massachusetts between 1 and 3 p.m.; and eastern Massachusetts between 3 and 5 p.m.
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The precipitation will keep coming in fits after it starts. Snow may be heaviest Sunday afternoon and evening, and then again Monday afternoon through Monday night. Expect a lull in the heaviest precipitation during the day Monday, from mid morning into mid afternoon, followed by another round of snow late.
Snow or rain?
Snow will become heavy at times, possibly accumulating at 1 to 2 inches an hour for a couple of hours at the onset, before weakening a bit and changing over to sleet and rain during the evening along and south of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Sunday night into Monday morning, the snow changes to a mix/rain at the coast. Monday afternoon, the rain will change back to snow at the coast and continue into Tuesday morning.
Even though we may have rain falling near Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, the temperature may stay below freezing, setting the stage for a freezing rain event. It’s hard to say whether it’s going to be freezing rain or sleet, but it’s unlikely we stay all snow from Boston to Hartford. Even from Pittsfield to Worcester, Massachusetts, we may be in the mix zone.
And that rain-snow line will be fluctuating north and south as the storm slowly evolves south of Nantucket Island and stalls out.
Early in the morning on Monday, rain will be occurring in much of eastern Massachusetts, with a mixed bag elsewhere. However, everything will change back to snow from west to east. The changeover will reach as far east as northeast Massachusetts, and central Massachusetts by about 3 p.m. It will reach eastern Massachusetts (except Cape Cod and the Islands) by between 7 to 11 p.m. Monday. The snow could continue into early Tuesday morning. Less snow is expected than what occurred on the front end Sunday, but there still could be several inches in some locations. This may be dependent on where localized bands of heavier snow set up.
How much snow?
A widespread 8 to 10 inches over much of interior Massachusetts is expected with as much as a foot possible in the higher Worcester hills and 12 to 17 inches in the east slopes of the Berkshires. Amounts drop off rapidly as one heads southeast, with 3 to 5 inches in Plymouth and less than an inch on Cape Cod and the Islands.
For most areas, at least several inches of snow is possible. Snow may accumulate at 1 to 2 inches an hour shortly after onset. Where it stays all snow, 9-18" is likely.
At the coast, we could see several inches Sunday evening with another burst of several inches possible Monday night/Tuesday morning.
Total snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches is possible near and west of Interstate 95, with total snow accumulations of 3 to 8 inches near the immediate coast.
With snowfall rates varying, we could average out about 1/2 inch per hour, which comes out to 12 to 18 inches in the higher elevations where it is all snow in central New England. South of that, we could see a few to several inches, but it could be wet with ice on top which would make it more difficult to deal with than where it is all snow. Very moisture-laden snow, of course, would be heavy to shovel.
What about flooding?
Storm surges of up to two feet are expected, but due to low astronomical tides, only splashover is expected for east coastal Massachusetts, including Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket (with northeast winds). Some pockets of minor coastal flooding cannot be ruled out.
Winter weather warnings
The National Weather Service has issued storm warnings and watches for parts of the region with heavy snow anticipated and winds possibly gusting as high as 40 mph.
Wind gusts will increase to 25-40 mph along the south coast late Sunday night. Monday into Tuesday, winds will gust to 35-45 mph along coastal areas, with the highest gusts over Cape Ann, outer Cape Cod, and the coastal waters off eastern Massachusetts.
Winter storm warnings will be in effect beginning at 11 a.m., Sunday, December 1, through 7 a.m., Tuesday, December 3, for the Massachusetts counties of Franklin, Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden, Middlesex and Worcester; the New Hampshire counties of Cheshire and Hillsborough; and the Vermont counties of Bennington and Windham.
A gale watch is now in effect for all coastal waters from Sunday afternoon through Monday afternoon/night.
How will it impact travel?
We could see a major impact on travel around New England beginning later Sunday and possibly lasting through the Tuesday morning commute. The National Weather Service says travel could be very difficult to impossible in some areas.
Drivers are encouraged to travel Sunday morning to lessen the significant disruption to travel plans. The exception to the disruption is along the Canadian border and in northern Maine where the most snow has already come down so far this season.
"We are encouraging residents to use caution when traveling, assist older neighbors and those who are disabled, and keep up with the shoveling of their property throughout the storm," said Mayor Walsh in a statement. "The City of Boston and our Public Works are well prepared for this storm that's coming Boston's way, and we ask that residents and businesses shovel their sidewalks and walkways, to ensure safety for all. Please remember to abide by the snow rules and be safe."
In preparation for the winter weather, the City's Public Works Department, will begin pre-treating roads this afternoon at 2 p.m.
“We are advising anyone who has to travel, to leave as early as possible Sunday morning," Gulliver continued. "To avoid being out in the storm, motorists traveling on roads north and west of Interstate 495 should plan to be off the roads by 3 p.m. and motorists traveling east and south of Interstate 495 should plan to be off the roads by 5 p.m.”
When will the storm move out?
The sun comes back out Tuesday afternoon when the storm wraps up and quieter weather returns.