First nor'easter of the season blasts New England as bomb cyclone

·5 min read

The official start to winter is still weeks away, but Mother Nature was ready to bring on the season's first nor'easter, which wasted no time intensifying into a bomb cyclone. The storm packed strong winds up to 105 mph in high elevations and dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas, sparking hundreds of thousands of power outages.

Forecasters warned this storm had the potential to go through the process that meteorologists call bombogenesis, and they were right.

Bombogenesis, or rapid strengthening, occurs when the central barometric pressure of a storm plummets by 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. When a storm undergoes this level of intensification, it is referred to as a bomb cyclone.

"This rapid deepening of low pressure is called 'bombogenesis' and is what we call a bomb cyclone. In this case, this storm dropped from 29.88 inches (1012 mb) over eastern Kentucky at 3 p.m. Friday to 29.06 inches (984 mb) at 3 p.m. Saturday near Nantucket, Massachusetts, making it a bomb cyclone," AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said.

The pressure crash of 0.82 of an inch (28 mb) was well within the criteria for bombogenesis.

The rapidly intensifying nor'easter prompted winter storm warnings across much of New England and some of the first blizzard conditions of the season, leading to a slew of power outages and road closures across the region.

"This storm exploded in strength as energy moving through the northern and southern branches of the jet stream came together across New England," Benz said.

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The storm that brought heavy snow to parts of the southern Plains at midweek re-energized along the Eastern Seaboard and tracked just off the coast of the northeastern United States into Saturday night, putting central and northern New England in the path of the heaviest snow. A storm track just offshore allowed for the storm to undergo significant strengthening, which added to the intensity of impacts across New England.

As the storm began to strengthen, drenching rain and thunderstorms broke out across the Southeast states and mid-Atlantic region on Friday night. By noon on Saturday, rain started in Greater Boston, while some nearby areas started to see snowflakes.

Road conditions continued to deteriorate across Massachusetts on Saturday as rain started to turn to freezing rain and snow.

Road conditions quickly deteriorating in Palmer, Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon. (Image via MassDOT)

Massachusetts State Police placed a speed restriction on I-90 at or below 40 mph between mile markers 55 and 84, through Ludlow and Charlton, shortly before noon on Saturday. Shortly after the speed restriction, there was a crash on I-90 in Millbury by exit 10A which prompted the closure of two westbound left lanes.

By 3 p.m. on Saturday, all highway districts in the state were in snow and ice operations and there were over 1,800 pieces of equipment at work on the roads.

Near whiteout conditions on the Massachusetts Turnpike near Warren, Massachusetts, on Saturday afternoon. (Image via MassDOT)

Those who stayed off the dangerous roads were most likely faced with power outages. As the storm kicked off on Saturday afternoon, Massachusetts power outages quickly mounted past 26,000 by the evening.

In Maine, outages topped 210,000 and New Hampshire reached over 60,000 outages by early Sunday morning.

Hefty snowfall totals past one foot are the culprit behind the high power outage numbers. Paxton, Massachusetts accumulated 12.5 inches of snow by Sunday morning. Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, reached double digits with 11.5 inches of snow. Wales, Massachusetts followed closely behind with 11 inches of snow.

By noon on Sunday, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, recorded 17.9 inches of snow on Sunday while Randolph, New Hampshire, passed a foot of snow with 14.4 inches.

"As cold air poured into the north side of this storm, heavy rain gave way to heavy snowfall across portions of New England snow focused from Worcester County where 12.5 inches of snow fell in Paxton to Carabassett Valley, Maine, where 18 inches of heavy snow dumped," Benz said.

Within this bomb cyclone, winds were powerful enough along the coast in New England and on eastern Long Island, New York, to break tree limbs, knock over poorly rooted trees, leading to sporadic power outages and causing minor property damage.

"The bomb cyclone led to powerful winds across much of the Northeast which caused extensive tree damage across eastern Massachusetts. A peak wind gust of 68 mph was recorded in Dennis, Massachusetts, Saturday evening as the storm was near peak intensity just offshore," Benz said.

In Cranberry Isles, Maine, wind gusts peaked at 70 mph by Sunday morning. Mount Washington, New Hampshire, which has an elevation of 6,288 feet above sea level, reported a peak wind gust of 105 mph.

Looking ahead, blustery conditions will prevail in the mid-Atlantic, and winds are likely to still howl across New England as the snow exits northern Maine, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec.

Chilly conditions are forecast to linger through early week from the Great Lakes to a large part of the Atlantic coast in the wake of the storm, and that may set the stage for a round of winterlike conditions in areas farther to the south.

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