By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer
BOSTON (CBS) - Well, it was inevitable - after a ridiculously warm autumn and December, you knew that sooner or later winter would rear its cold and snowy head. El Nino be damned, we are not going to have a year without a winter here in New England. It doesn't take a meteorologist to tell you that up until now we have had things way too easy.
Monday morning's 3.1 inches of snow in Boston was the first "storm" of an inch or greater this season, the third latest in recorded history! We are running a solid foot or more behind the typical snow totals for mid-January in Boston and Worcester.
Believe it or not, we were in a very similar spot at this time last year.
We are actually running a little above the January snowfall in comparison to 2015, and just an inch or so below the season total on this date. We didn't really get things started last year until January 24th when we received 5.4 inches of snow only to be followed by a 6-week thumping like never before in recorded Boston history.
In fact, Boston received more than 105 inches AFTER this date last season. Just to be clear, we are NOT forecasting a repeat of last season. But, at least for now, the comparison is an interesting one to make, given that we may be in for our first "big one" this weekend.
COLDEST WEEK OF SEASON
Before we start that "hype machine," let's take a step back and focus on the week ahead, which will be our coldest of this season by far. Most towns will stay below 32 degrees this entire week, including Boston.
You have to go way back to February 6-20th for the last such below freezing stretch. The cold will bottom out on Tuesday with highs barely reaching the 20's. The winds will be biting all day long, with real-feel temperatures near or slightly below zero. The winds will relax a bit on Wednesday and Thursday but daytime highs will remain in the upper 20s to near 30 at best. And then we turn our attention to the weekend.
This storm has its roots in the Pacific Ocean. It will come ashore on Tuesday morning, dumping copious amounts of rainfall (and mountain snow) from northern California to Washington state. It will then weaken as it passes over the Rockies and dives southward towards the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday morning.
During Thursday, weather models show the storm gathering copious amounts of Gulf moisture and blowing up into a formidable system. By Friday morning soaking rains are forecasted in the southeast United States and heavy snow will be falling in portions of the lower Ohio Valley and Appalachians.
Here is where our story begins - and I stress that it is only Monday and this forecast WILL CHANGE to some degree. However, there is a fairly reasonable amount of computer model consensus this far out in time, which I do believe warrants a "heads up" forecast.
The time frame to watch for us in the Northeast is Friday night and Saturday. There is potential for a significant nor'easter-type winter event not just for Boston but for the entire Northeast "Megalopolis" from D.C. up to Maine.
If this storm comes together as currently modeled, all of the major Northeast cities could be in line for a foot or more of snowfall.
For southern New England, this could be a long duration event with the first effects arriving late Friday night and perhaps lasting to some degree through early Sunday!
We also have to be aware and prepared for multiple hazards with this system, including the potential for strong, damaging northeast winds and some coastal flooding over several high tide cycles.
Unlike our last couple of weekend rain storms, this go around it does appear as though there would be plenty of cold air around, meaning much of our area would be in line for the first big snowstorm of 2016.
Again, this is being written more than four full days out from the actual event with the energy for the storm way out in the Pacific Ocean, spinning south of Alaska. In other words, a lot can and will change in the coming days. I urge you to stay tuned to WBZ-TV, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 and CBSBoston.com for frequent updates throughout the week.
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ
for more features.