The Thick of It

I believe this is the deepest snow I’ve seen since the Northeast US Blizzard of 1978, and thoroughly deserving of some tightly-focused verbal energy from Malcolm Tucker, I think.

By 7:30 this morning, the total seemed quite sufficient, thank you very much:


Click to view a larger size

But, I’m right in the middle of the worst band of the – cue trumpets – Blizzard of 2015, so at 2:30 in the afternoon, still the snow comes down at a good clip. That big lump is my car, which is normally not much taller than the shovel.


Click to view a larger size

There may be yet another several inches of snow in store.


Click to view a larger size

It’s possible the sky is broken.

Media effect worse than lake effect

Flood warnings as snow set to melt in north-eastern US

Snowfall in the north-east of the US has subsided, forecasters say, but there are now warnings of flooding as the snow melts.

When I saw this BBC News headline and opening graf just now, I made a Scooby-Doo “Hmmm?” sound and went to the window to see if my mind was going or indeed that there has been no snow that’s stuck here yet.

First of all, it’s usually referred to as the Northeast US without either the “ern” or the hyphen. That’s just a minor quibble. However, the overseas over-generalisation often featured in the news on both sides of the Atlantic is more severe than usual in this case, so someone should at least mention it, and offer the perspective that ought to be provided by…oh, I don’t know, let’s say journalists. I’m volunteering.

The counties in bright green in the centre of the map below are the only places that have flood warnings right now. The blue are just high wind warnings. The light green counties have special weather statements from the National Weather Service in effect, with most of those for expected light rain that might freeze on roads in some places.

northeast us

For comparison, those green counties around Buffalo, the quite narrow actual focus of that BBC News article, have an area perhaps 50% larger than metropolitan London, as demonstrated here, but with several million fewer people than metro London.

The current snow depth map shows why those counties may have some flooding as the weather warms:


Finally, for the wider and long-term perspective, here are the areas in the US and Canada that get lake effect snow – every year, and frequently.


Tornado Alley, northeast corner

Last weekend, a powerful thunderstorm whipping through caused me to exit the town I was visiting at an enhanced pace, because the winds were gusting up to about sixty miles an hour and seriously rocking my car as I began to eat the fried chicken I’d just bought – at the only decent independent fried chicken place in forty miles, I’ll mention here, not a KFC. I wanted to move on primarily because there were several large trees surrounding my car, which I prefer in its current unflattened shape.

I high-tailed it out of there and drove closer to home to continue my meal. The storm ended up coming through the car park I paused at, with the same alarmingly high winds, close lightning every few seconds, and a torrential downpour that dropped visibility to about a hundred fifty feet, all of which reminded me strongly of the sort of pop-up thunderstorm often seen in Atlanta on summer afternoons. When you’re on the highway there and that happens, everyone immediately slows to about 20 mph and puts their emergency flashers on.

This storm generated tornado warnings for five Massachusetts counties, including the one I was in, due to a distinctive hook-shaped radar signature that formed on its southern edge, but no funnel formed that day. That warning was cancelled by the time I got to the fried chicken place, but a severe thunderstorm warning remained in effect. You might think, “Come now, how likely is a tornado in Massachusetts?”, but we’ve had many warnings this summer and three actual touchdowns, more than average for a season:

  • 27 July: Dalton, Mass. EF1
  • 28 July: Revere, Mass. EF2
  • 31 August: Worcester, Mass. EF0

The Revere tornado touched down for about a quarter-mile and caused millions in damage, but probably short of the US$9.1m threshold before federal aid can kick in.

After the worst of the storm passed through and continued toward where I live, I flipped my phone sideways in its pillar mount and turned the camera on in case it might catch something interesting, which it did. When I saw this particular lightning strike, the best of several I caught on the 15-minute video, I thought, “Say, that looks pretty close to my house.” Sure enough, it was: Power was out when I got home and remained off for three hours whilst National Grid repaired whatever got hit.

Here’s the history of tornadoes in Massachusetts since 1950, from the Tornado History Project. The digit is the Fujita scale number for each. The red 4 in the middle represents the worst one that’s occurred here, the Worcester tornado of 9 June 1953, which killed 93 people and injured 1,228.

Tornadoes in Massachusetts

This bus had people in it when the Worcester tornado picked it up and slammed it against a building. Two people on the bus died.

Worcester 1953

Here’s a still frame from last week’s video (click for original HD size):


I enhanced this frame to show the multiple leaders as it sought the path of least resistance:

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