BOSTON (CBS) — At least it isn’t snow.
If this storm came a few weeks later with enough cold air in place, it would have been one of our all-time greatest snowstorms in southern New England. We are talking 2-3 feet of snowfall potentially. The setup is classic, near perfect in fact. A storm system pushing through the Upper Midwest, transfers energy to the coastline and BOOM. . . bombogenesis occurs. Add to that the fact that the storm isn’t just going to blast up the coast and move on, but instead, it will slow to a crawl right around the “benchmark” location for major nor’easters, south of Nantucket. Some of our most infamous and memorable storms are the ones that hang around a while, many of which do a loop-de-loop south of New England before exiting. Classics like the “Perfect Storm” in 1991 and the Blizzard of ’78 come to mind. Yes, there are some similarities with those storm tracks and this one.
Perhaps the best and most recent comparison would be either the late October storm in 2019 or 2017. Both produced a lot of wind and damage and both led to over 200,000 power outages.
Got your attention yet?
Before we get down to the nitty gritty details, one more reason to be thankful with this nor’easter. . . the tides are astronomically low. We are dodging a MAJOR bullet here as well. If this storm had come a week earlier or later, it would have been a devastating blow to the coastline. We would have been dealing with three consecutive high tides producing major coastal flooding. Picture large objects floating down streets and folks traveling by canoe. As it stands, the highest astronomical tide during the storm will be late Wednesday afternoon (9.1’ in Boston). A little over a week from now the tide levels (without adding any sort of storm surge or wave action) will reach 12.1’ in Boston. . . all we need is 12.5’ for flooding. Phew.
Having said all this, there will still be some minor coastal flooding in the typical locations around the high tide times (between 3 a.m.-7 a.m. and 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday).
OK, so that’s the good news. Now onto the bad news. We are in for a LOT of wind.
The peak wind gusts during this storm will reach between 60-75 mph along the immediate coastline (including Boston). Just a few miles inland, down I-95 and through 128, we expect gusts in the range of 50-65 mph. Even around the 495 belt, some 20-40 miles inland, the winds will be howling overnight, gusting frequently between 30-50 mph.
This amount of wind, over several hours, with mostly fully leafed trees will almost certainly cause significant wind damage. Picture each leaf as a mini sail, capturing the wind from the nor’easter and helping to sway the limbs and trees. There’s a big difference between 50-70 mph wind in October and say November or December when the leaves are all on the ground. Secure all loose objects outdoors. Trash barrels, patio furniture, Halloween decorations will end up in someone else’s yard if they are not tied down or brought inside.
Wednesday 12 a.m.-5 a.m.
- The storm continues to peak, part 2
- Heaviest rainfall now largely over, we are left with light to moderate bands of rain and drizzle pivoting in off the ocean
- This is the time of absolute peak wind (from about 10 p.m.-5 a.m.). Winds will reach their maximum levels through 5 a.m.
- Wind damage can also be incremental. . . the longer you experience damaging winds, the more damage you get as the hours wear on. . . I fully expect the damage reports to pile up more and more just before sunrise
- The Wed AM commute will improve from a water standpoint with most of the street flooding subsiding. However, with the wind staying active, many of the streets will be littered with downed limbs and leaves. Driving, especially early on, will still be very hazardous
Wednesday 5 a.m.-noon
- Finally…we start to get some improvement
- We are left with light to moderate pockets of rainfall, flooding concerns much lower to non-existent
- Winds will be lowering from their peak overnight but still very strong and damaging. . . as an estimate, subtract about 2-4 mph off the peak wind levels each hour through noon. So, if our absolute peak is 70 mph at 5 a.m., expect that to be closer to 50 mph by midday. Wind directions changing from northeast to more northerly.
- Travel conditions slowly improve throughout the morning.
- The cleanup begins. Light rain and drizzle continues but no significant rainfall
- Winds continue to lower each hour. By 5 p.m. the peak gusts at the coast are closer to 40 mph (lower inland) and largely below damaging levels
I would anticipate some areas will be without power for several days. Thankfully, the weather behind this system isn’t all that cold or harsh. Thursday and Friday will have highs in the 50s and lows around 40 with generally quiet conditions. Another rain event is likely to arrive late Friday and Saturday but doesn’t look nearly as impactful as this storm. At the moment we are cautiously optimistic for Sunday (Halloween); so far it looks dry with temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s.
As always, we urge that you stay tuned to WBZ-TV, CBSBoston.com and CBSN Boston for updates throughout the storm. And a reminder, if you lose power, make sure your phones and devices are charged, you can catch our live CBSN Boston stream on CBSBoston.com
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ