Forecast discussion: It’s not a secret. You have probably heard we have a major storm arriving on Friday, and continuing into most of Saturday. At this time, all of the major computer models are in complete agreement. So, let me get you updated on the latest information.
Right now, all of Rhode Island will be under a Winter Storm Watch, starting at 7 a.m. Friday morning until 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Also, a Blizzard Watch will be in effect for 7 a.m. Friday morning until 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon for Providence and Kent Counties. Now, this watch has nothing to do with snowfall amounts. Rather, the Blizzard Watch is for the potential of strong winds and low visibility, along with falling snowfall. Travelling will be rather difficult, if not impossible, in these areas.
Right now, the major low pressure system that will create this storm has not even formed yet. It is just a weak area of low pressure, known as a trough, moving through Louisiana. It will become a low pressure center as it gains strength and moves onshore into Alabama tomorrow. Meanwhile, a second low is currently is moving out of South Dakota. As we move into Friday, these two lows will merge, and create a very strong storm system to the south of Southern New England.
The southern low will become the primary low by Friday morning, as it absorbs the energy, upper level dynamics, and moisture from the low in the Central U.S. We will begin to see some snow showers over the southern part of the state as we begin the morning commute on Friday. As we move into the afternoon, this is when we will see heavier precipitation, and snow will become moderate to heavy. This will create a long and messy evening commute, as winds will be increasing, snow may be falling as hard as 2 to 3 inches an hour, and visibilities will be low.
Also, we may see occasional wind gusts as high as 50 to 60 mph. The weight of the snow and winds could bring down some power lines, so you may want to buy some extra batteries or flashlights in case of some outages.
The heavy snow and strong winds will continue into the early evening. Along the coastline, there will be a short period of seeing some mixed precipitation. Right now, I would estimate a mix of sleet, snow, and rain from about 8 p.m. until about midnight. By early Saturday morning, enough cold air will return to that part of the state, and convert the precipitation back to all snow.
The heavy snow will continue to about 5 to 7 a.m. Saturday morning, before the snow begins to slowly taper off. However, we will still see light snow right into early Saturday evening.
So, after all of this analysis, the main question to answer is how much can we expect for snowfall. Right now, I’m expecting northern and central Rhode Island to see a minimum of a foot, with as much as 2 feet in scattered areas. About 40 miles away from the south shore should see about 8 to 12 inches, due to the small time period of mixed precipitation.
Of course, any minor changes to the track of the low could change these totals. I hope to have these values more refined tomorrow night, as I have the advantage of seeing a couple more model runs before Friday.
72 hour forecast:
Tonight: Partly to mostly cloudy and very cold with a low of 15.
Thursday: Mostly sunny during the morning, with increasing clouds in the afternoon and a high of 28. Winds will come from the north-northwest at 5-8 mph.
Thursday night: Cloudy with light snow starting at 5 a.m. and a low of 22. Winds will come from the east-northeast at 6-9 mph.
Friday: Snow will become heavier around 4 p.m. We could see accumulations of 2 to 3 inches per hour by the end of the evening commute. We will also see increasing winds of 25-30 mph, which would create white out conditions. Along the coastline, you will see a mixture of sleet and rain by 2 p.m. I’m calling for a high of 38.
Friday night: Moderate to possibly heavy snow until 4 a.m. We may see blizzard conditions inland; otherwise, a mix of snow, sleet, and rain along the coastline and a low of 25.
Saturday: Light snow in the morning, before tapering off in the afternoon. I’m expecting a high of 29.
Saturday night: Partly cloudy and very cold with a low of 10.
Sunday: Mostly sunny. Highs 36-39, lows 27-30.
Monday: Showers/light rain by the early afternoon. Highs 45-48, lows 34-37.
Tuesday: Mostly sunny. Highs 40-43, lows 24-27.
Wednesday: Partly to mostly sunny. Highs 42-45, lows 27-30.