Joe Lundberg

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It Was Great In '78, But Will It Be Just as Mean in '13?

February 6, 2013; 10:52 AM ET

Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.

On this date 35 years ago, the Blizzard of '78 was unfolding across the Northeast. It is the storm that effectively sealed the deal for me going on to choosing my career. In my mind, ALL other storms are compared that great event. I am in the process of recounting some of my vivid memories from that storm on my Facebook page, so I'll spare you most of the account here for the sake of brevity. Suffice it to say, if you were old enough to remember living through it, it is something you will never forget.

Now staring us in the face is a storm that may well rival the Blizzard of '78! Could it be just as mean, this storm in February of 2013? If the growing model consensus is to be believed, then the answer is a definitive 'yes'!

After I walked out of the office yesterday to start on a lengthy list of 'to dos,' the model package just went berserk! The European model exploded the storm and continued its proposed assault on Long Island and New England in particular on its 0z run. In fact, the predicted 48-hour total precipitation from Thursday evening through Saturday evening exceeded 2 inches from the Jersey shoreline up to Bridgeport, then to Portsmouth, N.H.! More than one inch was spit out by the model from near Richmond to Wilmington, Del., to Rutland, Vt., to Eastport, Maine, with a secondary bullseye over most of western New York state.

Now the 12z NAM has gone absolutely off the deep end with the storm, phasing the northern branch feature cruising across the Great Lakes with the southern branch system that is currently bring heavy rain and thunderstorms through southern and southeastern Texas. That phasing would then cause the southern low pressure area to deepen rapidly Friday night as it moves away from the Virginia Capes and right over the magical '40/70' benchmark (40 degrees north/70 degrees west). And here's its latest total precipitation projections through Saturday evening:

That is a jaw-dropping 5-inch contour around Boston, with 4 inches from Portsmouth down to southern Rhode Island and the entire Cape! Granted, it IS the NAM model, which tends to have feedback issues and overdevelops some storms. So, we can probably trim those precipitation projections back somewhat, maybe by a third or more. Still, even at that, we're talking a 3-inch max precipitation area, with a large area well over 1 inch back to Islip and up the Housatonic Rover into the Berkshires!

There will be some issue with mixing across Long Island and southernmost Connecticut into southeastern Massachusetts, but most of the interior should be mainly snow, or snow with a little sleet at the height of the storm, just as I saw and heard out my back window around 11:30 on that Monday night back in 1978. Where it is all snow? 1-2 feet. Or more.

What is harder to predict, especially this far away, is where the enhanced bands of precipitation will set up. Where they do, you can get thundersnow with snowfall rates of 2, 3 or even 4 inches an hour! And if that band, which tends not to be very wide, sets up over an area for two, three or four hours, that area can get 1.5 to 2 times as much as snow as areas on either side of the band.

Again, this is all predicated on these two very distinct features phasing just off the mid-Atlantic coast late Friday and Friday night. If that phasing is delayed, then it would occur farther east, and there would be less snow in most places, maybe more over southeastern Massachusetts (it be easier for a changeover with a storm track farther south and east).

For comparison's sake, here's the 48-hour total precipitation forecast from Thursday evening through Saturday evening from the 12z GFS model:

Notice that it is not nearly as 'wet' as the NAM, which should be no surprise. Still, it does have a rather sizable area of over 1.5 inches of precipitation from southwestern Maine down through Worcester, Mass., to Nassau County and Atlantic City, N.J., and even into the Virginia tidewater area, with a bullseye of over 3 inches over the Twin Forks of Long Island up to my old home in southeastern Connecticut!

Another thing this storm has going for it? It's coming at the end of a run of arctic air. Quite often when arctic air has finished its run, there's a big storm that helps pull the cold air off the table, which will happen Sunday into early next week, starting now over the eastern Rockies and western Plains, and extending into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys Sunday and Monday, then into the East by Tuesday and Wednesday in full force.

Oh, what I wouldn't give to be back in Ledyard Friday and Saturday! If it's going to be cold, let's get a storm! Not this daily dose of dustings we've had the past week. That's the real stuff!

By tomorrow, we should be able to fine tune the forecasts of this mean snow machine of '13! Can't wait to see the new model runs coming in from the comfort of home this afternoon and evening!

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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About This Blog

Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran AccuWeather.com forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.