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Although not unprecedented, the explosive deepening of mid-latitude cyclone over this part of the Western Atlantic during winter (where central pressure drops more than 50 hPa in 24 hours) as witnessed on Thursday, January 4, 2018 is rare, NWS said. Detailed records over the past 45 – 50 years suggest a return interval for this event, in this area, may occur every 25 – 30 years. The storm will pull away from New England by the end of Friday and move into Canada. Very cold temperatures and wind chills will follow for much of the eastern third of US.
This major East Coast winter storm came after several blasts of very cold Arctic air that reached as far south as southern Texas and central Florida and combined to produce record-breaking snow, temperatures and floods across the region, from Florida up north to Canadian Maritimes. The combined death toll is near 20, as of early January 5.
Rare explosive cyclogenesis of East Coast cyclone, return interval 25 – 30 years. Credit: NOAA Goes-16, acquired January 4, 2018
We may have set an all-time record for a storm-driven high tide, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday evening. “The National Weather Service is ‘speculating’ that the state just faced the ‘highest high tide in Massachusetts history’ at about 4.5 m (15 feet),” he said, urging everybody to remain off the roads until tomorrow. The next phase of the storm – the bitter cold – will cause “flash freezes” beginning tonight once the storm ends around 21:00 local time.
Frozen flood – Boston, January 4, 2018. Credit: Dave Throup
NOAA meteorologist in Boston, Benjamin Sipprell, told The Daily Beast that the blizzard, combined with Thursday’s high tide between noon and 1 p.m. EST – plus the extraordinary lunar event last month – meant that a flood was poised to take place.
“Leading up to the tide, we had hurricane-force winds and 20-foot [6 m] waves on coasts facing the Atlantic,” Sipprell said. “There was a 2- to 3-foot [60 – 90 cm] surge that got driven into inner bays and inundated a lot of infrastructure, roads, and basements into Nantucket.”
The result was catastrophic, with officials warning residents to stay off streets as the frigid temperatures would ice the water over and freeze vehicles to their locations.
The storm will continue to bring heavy snow, strong winds, high surf, and dangerous travel conditions to much of northern New England into Friday, NWS said, and will ‘pull away from the region later Friday and conditions will gradually improve.’
Very cold temperatures and wind chills will follow for much of the eastern third of the country through the weekend.
The last similar storm in this region occurred on January 4, 1989.
Featured image credit: NOAA Goes-16, acquired January 4, 2018