After nearly two days of constant snow in some Northeast cities, the first big snowstorm of the winter is drawing to a close. For many in central and western New England, it dropped almost two feet of snow, while a few places saw even more.
Albany even managed to record one of its top 10 greatest snowstorms, as well as its biggest storm so early in the winter season.
The snow is set to finally wrap up Tuesday in extreme eastern New England from Downeast Maine to Cape Cod.
The storm has proved to be plenty disruptive. Schools were closed in Boston on Tuesday, where four to eight inches have fallen, and hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled in and out of Boston’s Logan Airport.
The ingredients that gave rise to the hefty snowmaker roared ashore in the Pacific last week. Remember the “bomb cyclone” that lashed Oregon and California after intensifying at twice the rate needed to classify as a bomb? That system was spawned by the same pocket of upper-level energy that drifted east, touching off another storm over the Great Plains and Upper Midwest before transferring the focus offshore of New England.
The flakes started flying in New York on Sunday afternoon, waiting until near dark to coat the ground in the Boston-to-Providence corridor.
Albany recorded its first snowfall during the 1 p.m. hour Sunday. The visibility dropped from 10 miles to a mile in just an hour, with snowfall rates quickly becoming heavy. For the next 38 hours, snow was recorded at the airport; the seemingly never-ending storm finally relenting just before 5 a.m. Tuesday. They wound up with 22.6 inches, making it their eighth-largest snowstorm on record and the biggest since 1993.
Selkirk, barely 10 miles south of town, eclipsed two feet. And Schaghticoke, in Rensselaer County, N.Y., totaled 27.5 inches.
In Lawrence, Mass., the snow has indignantly refused to budge. They’re up to 41 hours straight and were still going strong as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. The snow there started just before 5 p.m. Sunday. Surprisingly, the city — which has yet to report an official tally — probably received between eight and 13 inches.
Farther inland, the snow piled up. Worcester County, Mass., received one of the jackpots; Winchendon saw 25 inches, as did Royalston, while Fitchburg piled up 22 inches. And the snow continues. It has been snowing in Worcester for 42 hours. (If you’re really looking to escape the snow, 42 hours is enough time to drive from Worcester to Florida twice.)
Some areas did experience a lull. Manchester, N.H., was snow-free from 5 to 8 a.m. Monday. Hartford enjoyed a reprieve between 4 and 6 p.m. Monday. (Hartford’s 16.3-inch total marked its biggest snowstorm so early in the season and their loftiest tally since 2017.)
That pause in precipitation was the result of a “dry slot.”
A two-act storm
The storm unloaded heavy snowfall in two phases. In some areas it paused, but in others it never did.
Before redeveloping northeast of the Delmarva Peninsula, the storm generated an initial round of moderate to heavy snow over eastern New York and interior New England (closer to the coast, mostly rain fell in the initial phase). That’s why the totals from Binghamton to Albany and parts of interior Massachusetts were so impressive: They received snow from the storm’s two acts, without interruption.
The storm’s opening act even brought thundersnow north of the Massachusetts Turnpike and near Route 2.
Totals from the storm’s first act stacked up to more than a foot for many, especially in the Berkshires. But more was on the way.
After the storm moved over the ocean and began to intensify, the previously mentioned dry slot brought a temporary quiescence over eastern New England. That’s when the storm’s “comma head” began to form.
A “comma head” is the backside of a departing low, the wraparound moisture that collects into a sudden burst of heavy snow and occasional whiteout conditions as northwesterly winds sweep cold air into the system. A well-anticipated comma head began to take shape Monday morning over New York City.
In the Big Apple itself, Central Park got 1.6 inches. La Guardia saw 0.4. But 20 miles west of town, Oakland, N.J., saw eight inches. Most of that fell beneath bands characterized by one-to-two-inch per hour snowfall rates. New York City very narrowly dodged a commuting nightmare Monday afternoon and evening.
Now, the only snow left is mostly east of Interstate 91. Heavy snow continues in Maine, where more than a half-foot of additional accumulation is possible near the coast. Two or three inches may fall through the evening along the New Hampshire Seacoast, while Boston and eastern Massachusetts may see another inch.
The snow will gradually wind down throughout Tuesday. There’s also a chance that the departing storm clouds to the east could make for a stunning sunset Tuesday evening.