Blizzard could be the biggest snowstorm to ever hit Boston

·4 min read

A major nor'easter is walloping New England and the latest forecast remains on track for this storm to pack a big enough punch to make its way into Boston's top snowstorms on record.

AccuWeather forecasters have spent all week tracking the developing weather pattern that allowed for a huge storm to begin taking shape. Early on, forecasters saw the potential for a "huge snowstorm" to hit New England and, with the heavy snow that spread across the region on Saturday, that's precisely the fate the Boston metro area faced.

Near where the storm was expected to be fiercest, similar attention was being paid to the developing weather patterns. Forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Boston had already started to prepare for the winter storm by changing meteorologists' typical nine-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.

"You could be there for 12 hours plus," Andrew Loconto, Lead Meteorologist at the NWS Boston office, told AccuWeather in an interview. The Boston NWS office is actually located in Norton, Massachusetts, a suburb that's about a one-hour drive south of the city. "A lot of times you have to pack a bag just in case you get stuck in with heavy, heavy snow and difficult road conditions."

The nor'easter has already brought difficult and even impossible travel conditions to parts of southern New England, but how does it stack up to Boston's top snowstorms in recorded history?

The Blizzard of 2003, also known as the President's Day Storm, was a historic and record-breaking snowstorm along the East coast. Snow fell from Washington, D.C., to Boston, burying some towns under 30 inches of snow. Boston picked up 27.6 inches of snow during the duration of that storm, 0.5 inches more than the Northeast Blizzard of 1978.

The Northeast Blizzard of 1978, also known as "one of the worst of the century," according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), dumped 27.1 inches of snow in Boston and wreaked havoc along the Eastern Seaboard. This storm sits right behind the Blizzard of 2003 on the leaderboard.

In order to break into one of the top 10 snowfall slots, Boston needed to receive 20 inches of snow or more this weekend.

As dawn broke Saturday morning, Boston had already received 3-5 inches of snow with visibility down to one-quarter of a mile as the flakes came down at a rapid pace. AccuWeather meteorologists expected around 2 feet of snow to pile up in the city by the time the snow tapered off Saturday night. By late Saturday night, Boston had recorded a daily record maximum of 23.6 inches for January 29th, solidly placing them within the top 10 snowiest days. Additionally, the 23.6-inch report ties the record for the snowiest 24-hr period in Boston, previously set during the Blizzard of 2003.

By surpassing 14.8 inches of snow in 24 hours, the storm will move into the top 10 snowiest days on record for the city.

January is a little early for blockbuster snowstorms for the city, and more than 24.6 inches of snow over the duration of the storm could easily capture the number one slot. That record was set by a storm between January 26 and January 28, 2015.

"Conditions look favorable for blizzard conditions into Saturday night in Boston," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty explained late last week. This storm marks the first time Boston has been under a blizzard warning since March of 2018, when Boston Logan International Airport picked up 14.8 inches of snow, according to a report from The Washington Post.

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This nor'easter came to Boston during its snowiest month, a time when forecasting storms of this magnitude can take a toll on forecasters at the NWS office in Boston.

"It's difficult to sleep because you're just so wired after a 12-hour shift, you just want to keep working," Loconto shared.

Forecasters have to be flexible during a winter storm. Some will work with emergency management or aviation weather partners to keep them up to date about the incoming weather. However, normal operations like putting together the seven-day forecast still need to continue.

Loconto has been with the NWS Boston office since 2019 and hasn't experienced many winter storms in the Boston area yet, but he told AccuWeather that this weekend's nor'easter will be a memorable one.

AccuWeather meteorologists explained last week that the storm could be far more than memorable, and they weren't mincing words about just how much of a powerhouse it could prove to be.

According to AccuWeather meteorologists, many areas were forecast to face an all-out blizzard and enough snow to "leave a lasting impression on the region for this decade and perhaps many more to come." The rapidly strengthening nor'easter was expected to pack enough strength to completely shut down major highways and leave communities throughout the Northeast without power.

"This is going to be a dangerous, life-threatening storm, especially in southern New England," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter stated late last week.

Correction: The 2003 blizzard is Boston's record-holder for largest single-storm snowfall, not the 1978 storm as a previous version of this story indicated.

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