Massachusetts is in for a rude winter awakening this week.
A nor’easter is expected to bring heavy snow – upward of a foot – to communities throughout the state Wednesday and Thursday, with as much as 12-18 inches forecast across Western and Central Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.
Forecasters initially anticipated the storm would hit Southeastern Massachusetts the hardest, though it now looks like the interior of the state will see the greatest amounts of snow, with 14 inches expected in Springfield and 13 in Worcester.
Eastern Massachusetts will see similar amounts. Communities from as far north as Gloucester to as far south as Plymouth should receive 8-12 inches of snow. Boston is expected to be hit with around a foot, according to officials.
Lesser amounts are forecast on the Cape and Islands, with as much as 6 inches possible in Hyannis and as little as less than an inch expected on Nantucket, forecasters said.
For any significant winter weather event, the weather service releases a slew of maps showing what Massachusetts residents can expect from the impending storm. This week’s nor’easter is no exception.
Dozens of images posted on the agency’s website paint a fuller picture of the nor’easter. The maps show likely high-end and low-end snowfall totals, expected precipitation amounts by city, anticipated wind gust strengths and probable snow start times.
“Those are probabilistic,” Bryce Williams, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Boston/Norton office, said about the forecast maps. “They are trying to get away from the more deterministic to give more of a range to say, ‘What is the 1 in 10 chance there is higher snowfall than this?’ Right now, our official forecast is calling for up to a foot in Boston and 12-18 inches in Western and Central Massachusetts.”
Ahead of the nor’easter, a winter storm warning has been issued for nearly the entire state, excluding the Cape and Islands. Residents should stay on top of the forecast and expect major snowfall, strong winds and minor coastal flooding across southern New England, the weather service said.
The storm will barrel southwest into the state around 7 p.m. Precipitation will become heavy at times overnight into early Thursday, with speedy snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour expected, according to forecasters.
“This storm system is typical,” Williams said. “It’s less of a question of whether it’s going to be rain or snow than the storm from last weekend. It’s likely we’ll get more significant snowfall this time.”
Officials have warned the winter storm will make overnight driving conditions and the Thursday morning commute hazardous. Gusty winds may bring down tree branches and cause power outages. Travel could become “very difficult to impossible,” the weather service noted.
“Our general message for the public is to stay off the roads during the height of the storm,” said Christopher Besse, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “Because of 2020, a lot of people are working remotely and already doing that.”
MEMA will be monitoring the nor’easter this week and staying in touch with municipalities as well as several state agencies – including Massachusetts State Police, the Department of Public Utilities, the Department of Fire Services and others – should any issues arise.
The agency is expecting to activate its State Emergency Operations Center in anticipation of the storm Wednesday evening. At MEMA’s Framingham headquarters, representatives from the responding state agencies will coordinate their response throughout the storm, with some individuals working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Besse noted, the public health crisis is not expected to hamper their emergency response efforts. The state’s system for responding to weather-related issues is largely the same as it was before the outbreak of the viral respiratory infection.
“From our perspective, it’s the same coordination and ability to respond, even if some of those representatives are coordinating remotely,” the MEMA spokesperson told MassLive. “Hopefully, because of COVID, there will be less people on the roads during the snowfall, which may make things easier for the plows.”