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Blizzard of 2015 Delivers High Wind, More Snow Than Forecast

The Blizzard of 2015 exceeded expectations. Here's all the information we gathered, along with some great pictures.

Tuesday, 11:05pm – This is the final update. The blizzard warning has officially been lifted, and the travel ban ends at midnight. However, this storm is clinging to Cape Cod and Nantucket. The National Weather Service is still calling for northerly winds gusting to 40-55 miles per hour, as well as periods of heavy snow and blizzard conditions with near zero visibility. Scattered ocean effect snow showers could continue into Wednesday.

Then, here’s where it really gets good. There’s a chance of snow Thursday night and into Friday. The weekend should be clear, but cold - below-zero wind chills cold. And there’s the possibility of a third snowstorm hitting Sunday night and into Monday. That doesn’t leave much time for post-storm cleanup, let alone preparation for the next wave (if you’re not sure what that might mean, please see these before, during, and after checklists from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security).

But, if you happen to find yourself at home with nothing more pressing to do on Wednesday, you could always try your hand at snow sculpture. We’ve certainly got plenty of raw material available. Here’s some inspiration to sleep on:

Could this be your front yard?
Could this be your front yard?

And there’s plenty more where that came from. Stay safe and enjoy the white, fluffy stuff!

Tuesday, 10:30pm  - Despite the struggles this blizzard caused, some of you took time to photograph your storm experience and share the results. We've collected some of them in a slide show above, but you can see more on our Instagram feed and our Facebook page. Send us a message with your photos and we will gladly post them! 

Tuesday, 10:00pm  - The storm may be winding down, but the power outage story is moving quickly, and in a good direction. Provincetown is largely back online, and the statewide outage numbers are dropping by thousands every few hours. Precious little consolation for Nantucket and others facing a cold night with no electricity, but progress nonetheless.

Tuesday, 9:45pm - On a special episode of The Point, Mindy Todd checked in with reporters and experts around southeastern Massachusetts for the latest on storm impacts and the outlook for Wednesday.

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Tuesday, 9:00pm - If you are one of the lucky ones and a plow has cleared your road, the driving ban will be lifted at midnight tonight, but the state of emergency order is still in effect. In a press conference today,  Governor Baker said

While the travel ban will no longer be in effect at midnight tonight, I urge the people of Massachusetts to stay off the roads unless they must travel. It is critical we all work together and use good judgment tonight and throughout tomorrow as road crews work to clean up from this historic blizzard.

Many schools and businesses will still be closed Wednesday, so be sure to check before you head out. Our storm guide has lots of useful links and apps.

Tuesday, 7:20pm - We appear to be entering the home stretch. 7pm marked the end of the coastal flood warnings, and the Nantucket tide buoy shows water levels there subsiding. Earlier this evening, CBS meteorologist Eric Fisher, on Twitter, lamented the end of eighteen consecutive hours of 60+ mile per hour winds on Nantucket. While snow continues to fall, the National Weather Service says the storm is winding down. Southeastern Massachusetts' blizzard warning will end at 10pm and the travel ban will lift at midnight. Provincetown and Nantucket remain largely in the dark, but thousands of other customers have already had power restored. And shoveling out has begun.

We'll be tallying the impacts and repairing the damage for days and weeks to come, but here's a quick look at some of the top snowfall amounts:

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Credit Alecia Orsini
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Once out, start shoveling!

  Kingston              28 in  (5:26 pm)

Plymouth             28 in  (4:41 pm)

Oak Bluffs            27 in  (2:37 pm)

East Freetown     26 in  (4:58 pm)

West Yarmouth   24 in  (2:50 pm)

East Falmouth     23.5 in  (4:52 pm)

Nantucket             12 in  (4:11 pm)

Tuesday, 5:15pm - Now for some good news. Meteorologist Phil Burt says we dodged a bullet. Forecast wind shifts and warmer temperatures never materialized, leaving us with all snow. As he explains, that's a lot better than the wet, heavy alternative.

ATC_Burt-012715.mp3
Meteorologist Phil Burt on the outlook for this storm's end

Erosion damage as of mid-day.
Credit Greg Berman / Woods Hole Sea Grant
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Woods Hole Sea Grant
Erosion damage in Sandwich and Dennis as of mid-day.

Tuesday, 4:45pm - That collapsed deck in Sandwich that Steve Heaslip photographed and tweeted about this morning? It's not the only one. Coastal processes specialist Greg Berman reports several homes on Town Neck Beach in Sandwich have sustained damage, and the sacrificial dune built over the past few weeks using thousands of cubic feet of sand, it's pretty much gone.

Berman_2-way_a.mp3
Coastal processes specialist Greg Berman on erosion at Town Neck Beach, Sandwich

The dunes along Sesuit Harbor in Dennis have also sustained damage.

Keep in mind, while we're just getting a clearer picture of the damage caused by this morning's high tide, it's almost high tide again. A coastal flood warning is in effect. The National Weather Service is calling for moderate to major coastal flooding along north and east-facing shorelines of Cape Cod and Nantucket, plus severe beach erosion in locations like Plum Island, Plymouth, the north side of Cape Cod, Chatham, and Siasconset on Nantucket.

Tuesday, 4:10pm - We won't have officially updated snowfall tallies until 5pm, but it doesn't take an expert to know there's a lot of snow out there. Is it enough to break records? That's always been a possibility. It's not actually a simple question to answer, partly because there are different ways to gauge a complex storm like this - snowfall, wind speed, coastal flooding, property damage - that don't always line up, and partly because we don't have a long, detailed weather record for Cape Cod and the Islands. That said, two storms that invariably crop up in "top ten storms" lists are the Blizzard of 1978 and the 2003 President's Day Weekend storm. Both brought some 27 inches of snow to the Boston area. Boston clocked in at just 18 inches this morning, but this storm isn't over and the predictions put Boston squarely in the running.

Tuesday, 2:00pm - In light of the flooding on Route 6A in Sandwich, Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee has announced a detour around Scorton Creek Bridge effective at 4pm today. Eastbound traffic will be detoured onto Old County Road to Howland Lane and back to Route 6A. Westbound traffic will take Howland Lane to Old County Road to rejoin Route 6A.

Tuesday, 1:30pm - George Price, superintendent of Cape Cod National Seashore, tells WCAI's Dan Tritle that rangers have been checking on the park's coastal areas and are finding significant damage.

"The stairs are totally gone at Nauset Light Beach," he says. "There are also reports of damage to the parking lot at Herring Cove North.  There's a large hole in the parking lot.  This is similar damage we've had in past storms, but to have the stairs totally gone is pretty significant."

Price cautions against trying to get to the shore, as it can be hard to tell how much erosion has undermined bluffs.

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Credit Jay Norton / Truro DPW
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Truro DPW
Waves have breached the dunes at Ballston Beach, Truro.

Tuesday, 12:45pm - DPW Director Jay Norton reports that the dunes at Ballston Beach, Truro, have been breached. You may recall the same thing happened during the March blizzard of 2013, and was subsequently repaired.

Tuesday, 12:35pm - Edgar Herwick at WGBH has some more details on the Nantucket power outages. According to National Grid, the submarine transmission cables are fine, but there is significant icing on equipment. Generators have been fired up to power the hospital. 850 line crews and 350 tree crews are standing by to begin repairs as soon as it is safe to do so (i.e. when winds die down), but it will likely take multiple days to restore power to the island.

Tuesday, 11:25am – As expected, the power situation is getting worse, particularly on Cape Cod and Nantucket. National Grid is reporting outages affecting 12,800 customers on Nantucket. NStar reports more than 5500 customers without power in Provincetown, nearly 3,000 in Sandwich, and just shy of 1,200 in Falmouth. Wellfleet, Chatham, Brewster, Barnstable, and Mashpee are also hard-hit.

NStar outage map as of 11:15am.
NStar outage map as of 11:15am.

Tuesday, 11:05am - The National Weather Service is reporting 10-20 inches of snow accumulation across much of southeastern Massachusetts. Sandwich has dropped out of the top spot, with reports of 21 inches in Plymouth, 19.5 inches in East Freetown, and 19 inches in Falmouth.

Plymouth, Chatham, and Nantucket top the wind rankings, with gusts to 75 miles per hour and sustained winds on the outer Cape and Nantucket close to 60 miles per hour. 

Tuesday, 10:30am - We're still waiting for details on coastal flooding and erosion, but Cape Cod Times photographer Steve Heaslip just tweeted this from Sandwich:

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Town Neck Beach is an erosion hotspot, and we expect to have more information from coastal processes specialist Greg Berman by mid-day. He's currently out surveying the situation in Sandwich, and reports six inches of standing water on Route 6A. Keep in mind, it's nearly low tide.

Chatham and Nantucket are other spots we're watching. As these locations approach low tide, NOAA tide buoys are showing water levels 4-5 feet above normal.

If winds continue blowing strong from the northeast, this afternoon's high tide could also be problematic. Massachusetts' east-facing and outer coastlines will be on coastal flood warning again 3-7pm.

Tuesday, 9:15am - Cape Cod Times is reporting that Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station shut down at 4am "in response to degrading offsite electrical grid conditions." Meanwhile, customer power outages continue to rise, with thousands on Nantucket and tens of thousands statewide without power.

Tuesday, 8:50am - Governor Baker says road crews are keeping up with the snow. Let's just be thankful we have the technology we do. It wasn't always thus, as a look back at the history of snow clearing makes evident. My personal favorite is this mega-snowblower:

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Credit Photo Courtesy of Made In Canada
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Jull Centrifugal Snow Plough

What's your snow removal plan?

Tuesday, 8:10am - The wind is living up to expectations, with gusts to 78 miles per hour reported on Nantucket overnight. The consensus seems to be that the snow is lighter (drier) than originally expected, though, and that's a good thing. Sandwich seems to have been hardest hit, in terms of both snow (18 inches) and power outages (almost 2,000 NStar customers without power currently). As a whole, Cape Cod accounts for nearly 5,700 of the 9,500 NStar customers without power right now.

Tuesday, 7:15am - The wind can make it hard to know how much snow we've gotten, but the National Weather service is reporting anywhere between 7 and 18 inches around southeastern Massachusetts. And, as you've doubtless noticed, it's still coming down. The National Weather Service has issued updated snowfall forecasts that now put the upper Cape in the 24-36 inch range.

StormTotalSnowRange.png

Tuesday, 6:35am - Having been awakened by the cries of a hungry blog, I'm back at my post. The very unofficial report from East Falmouth is: it's still snowing, and still blowing. A quick early-morning synopsis from Cape Cod Weather read as follows:

Winds are gusting 55 to 75 mph around the Cape and Islands. Combined with heavy snow, this is yielding blizzard conditions around the area. As of 4AM, parts of the Cape are already passing 12″ of snow.

While I do still have power, I'm in shrinking company. National Grid is reporting 4,285 customers affected by fifteen outages on Nantucket. On Cape Cod, Sandwich is the hands-down loser, with 17% (more than 1,500) of customers without power. Brewster, Hyannis, and Falmouth are the runners-up. Take a look:

NStar power outage map as of 6:30am on Tuesday, January 27th.
NStar power outage map as of 6:30am on Tuesday, January 27th.

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Monday, 10:55pm - Even the U.S.P.S. has caved to this storm, announcing there will be no mail delivery in Massachusetts on Tuesday. There will be more live blogging, though. For now, stay safe and warm.

Monday, 10:30pm - In addition to snow, snow, and more snow, two other storm impacts are expected to hit during the overnight - power outages, of course, and coastal flooding and erosion. High tide is between 4am and 5am along much of the coast, closer to 6am on the islands and south side of Cape Cod. That tide will naturally be about a foot higher than the afternoon high tide, but if winds continue strong from the north or northeast, more water could pile up by the afternoon. So, both tides are of concern, as reflected by coastal flood watches spanning both tides, or the entire period from 3am to 7pm Tuesday, depending on the exact location.

There are a handful of north- and east-facing coastlines that could be especially vulnerable. Even if you don't know where they are, you'll likely recognize the names because all of these communities' struggles with erosion have made headlines:

Emergency erosion control work at Town Neck Beach this month.
Credit Steve Heaslip / Cape Cod Times
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Cape Cod Times
Emergency erosion control work at Town Neck Beach this month.

  • Siasconset Beach, Nantucket - Homeowners desperate to save their houses are laying down serious money and battling both neighbors and officials to do so.
  • Chatham, Cape Cod - The fight over cottages on North Beach Island has subsided in recent months, but the sand continues to shift.
  • Town Neck Beach, Sandwich, Cape Cod - Town Neck Beach has been (not so) slowly disappearing for years. The issue has come to a head in recent weeks, with thousands of cubic yards of sand being dumped on the beach in an effort to repair a breached dune. And it could all wash away in the next twenty four hours.
  • Farther north, Scituate and Plum Island are both facing significant threats.

Monday, 10:10pm - As this storm starts to heat up, let's remember the really burning question: what to call it (please read with dripping sarcasm). More on the name vs. no-name debate comes from the number junkies over at fivethirtyeight.com. It seems the Weather Channel’s naming convention may not be catching on as hoped. Multiple search tools show good ol’ “blizzard” out-performing “Juno.” Same on social media:

On Twitter, tradition is also winning the naming battle. The hashtag “#blizzardof2015” was romping “#Juno” by about 105,000 tweets to 25,000 (again, as of this writing).

Monday, 10:00pm - Looks like the South Coast is getting pounded with a whopping 3 inches of snow per hour right now. The National Weather Service in Taunton just posted this on Twitter:

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Monday, 9:45pm - Power outages are expected to be widespread and could last for days, but for now, all is quiet. National Grid and NStar are reporting no outages in southeastern Massachusetts at this time. (No need to post the outage maps, since you already know what Cape Cod looks like.)

That said, winds are picking up. The National Weather Service is currently reporting gusts to 45 miles per hour on the outer Cape, and up to 49 miles per hour on Nantucket.

Monday, 7:35pm - No surprise here, but closures for Tuesday are piling up even faster than the snow. WCVB has a statewide school closure listing, if you're not sure yet.

Monday, 6:53pm - As we hunker down for the night we took a look at photos people are posting around the Cape, the Coast & the Islands. From Instagram, @shaynetrimbell posted a great shot from above New Bedford & out on Nantucket a serene scene from @ackspiced. Are you on Instagram? You can find us and share your photos with @wcai_npr.

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Monday, 6:35pm Frank O'Laughlin, Meteorologist with Barnstable County Emergency Planning Committee, tells WCAI's Mindy Todd the upper Cape could see upward of 15-18 inches of snow. No matter where you are, it will be wet, heavy snow.

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6pm update from Frank O'Laughlin, meteorologist with Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee

By tomorrow, coastal flooding and erosion will also be a big part of the story, especially on the outer Cape and along the southern shore of Cape Cod Bay.

Monday, 5:10pm   Here’s a forecast update as of 5 o'clock. Not a lot of change so far.

Tonight: 

The Snow Story

Snow continues, becoming heavier after midnight. Blowing snow may reduce visibility to one quarter mile or less at times. Temperatures remain relatively mild, in the upper 20s. 

Depending on where you are, your snow accumulation will vary.

The South Coast is in line to pick up 12-16 inches overnight. 

The Cape is looking at 10-14 inches.

Martha’s Vineyard may see 8-12 inches.

Nantucket will see rain mixing in after midnight, making for a very sloppy 3-5 inches of accumulation possible.

The Wind Story

Here’s what could be the real story of this storm, since the high winds, combined with heavy wet snow, are likely to produce many power outages. And with winds and snow expected to continue through Tuesday, power crews won’t be able to address outages quickly or easily. So be prepared!

The National Weather Service is calling for Cape Cod to receive Northeast winds 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 55 mph this evening. After midnight, winds get even stronger -  increasing to 25 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 75 mph after midnight.  This is a good estimate for Martha’s Vineyard as well.  The South Coast is a bit more sheltered – take 5-10 mph off of the forecast for wind gusts (the South Coast remains in the state’s forecast region for expecting multiple power outages.)

Nantucket escapes some snow overnight, but makes up for that in receiving extra wind, with gusts up to 80mph possible after midnight. 

Tomorrow (Tuesday)

The Blizzard Continues. 

North winds continue gusting to 60mph. If you are west of the snow/rain line (an uncertain proposition just now) you will see more snow – as much as an additional 8 to 12 inches. Right now it appears that line may pass through Hyannis, with the Upper Cape and South Coast getting more snow, and the Outer and Lower Cape and Nantucket catching rain. But be aware that the snow/rain line will vary even hour by hour, so at periods the  Upper Cape may see rain mixing in with snow, then transitioning back to snow. 

Tomorrow Night (Tuesday Night)

This is the real danger zone, as temperatures plummet, with power outages likely to be stacking up.  Temperatures fall into the teens.  All that wet mucky snow freezes solid, making for very dangerous conditions.

Monday, 4:05pm The shelter at Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Harwich WILL be able to accomodate pets, meaning all six shelters are now pet shelters. That and other updates from Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee spokesperson Kevin Morley:

KevinMorley_012615-4pm.mp3
4pm update from Kevin Morley, Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee

Also, on Martha's Vineyard, an emergency shelter at Tisbury School (40 West William Street, Vineyard Haven) will open at 6pm.

Monday, 3:10pm – To name or not to name. Hmm. Two years ago, the Weather Channel (Channel, not Service – important distinction) started naming winter storms. This year’s list draws heavily on Greek and Roman mythology, including the name they've given this storm - Juno.

Does she look like a winter storm?
Credit Jupiter and Juno, by Annibale Carracci / Wikimedia Commons
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Wikimedia Commons
Does she look like a winter storm?

Some say hyperbolic storm names are one more symptom of a media hype cycle, but four experts we contacted last winter said they haven’t noticed a big increase in storm frenzy. Either way, these names are not bestowed or recognized by the National Weather Service, so we don’t use them. Besides, what’s up with naming a snowstorm after the Roman goddess in charge of all things “women,” who gave her name to the warm and sunny month of June?

Monday, 2:20pm - Even if there weren't a travel ban going into effect tonight, it would be difficult to get anywhere. Thousands of flights have been canceled, including most Cape Air service and all flights departing Boston Logan International Airport after 7:30pm tonight. T.F. Green Airport's website shows no arrivals or departures after 5:30pm, and precious few between now and then.

The Steamship Authority is currently running on a trip-by-trip basis but says they expect to suspend service on Tuesday. Hy-Line has canceled ferry service this afternoon and tomorrow, and closed their offices until Tuesday at 1pm.

Back on land, Governor Baker announced the MBTA would not run on Tuesday during the height of the storm. No word on service interruptions from CCRTA yet, but Peter Pan Bus Lines has cancelled most New England service. P&B has canceled service between Boston and Cape Cod this evening, and all services on Tuesday.

In other words, it’s time to hunker down at home. And, if that doesn’t seem safe or warm, Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee will open six regional shelters at 6:30pm Monday. Locations are:

Shelters.png
Credit BCREPC
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BCREPC

* Falmouth High School - 874 Gifford Street, Falmouth

* Sandwich High School -  365 Quaker Meetinghouse Road, Sandwich

* Barnstable Intermediate School - 895 Falmouth Road, Barnstable

* Dennis-Yarmouth High School - 210 Station Avenue, South Yarmouth

* Cape Cod Regional Technical School - 351 Pleasant Lake Avenue, Harwich

* Nauset Regional High School - 100 Cable Road, Eastham

All shelters except Harwich allow pets, and they are working on getting enough volunteers to open the Harwich location to pets.

Monday, 12:40pm - At a noon press conference, Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and announced a statewide travel ban beginning at midnight tonight. Watch:

7News Boston WHDH-TV

Monday, 11:30am - As snow starts to fall across southern New England, storm impacts are already being felt in the form of empty supermarket shelves and cancelled flights. A blizzard warning will be in effect from 7pm until noon tomorrow. The National Weather Service is predicting 10-18 inches of snow accumulation on the Cape and Islands, more toward the Cape Cod Canal and along the south coast.

Wind is also a major concern, with gusts up to 75 miles per hour predicted for Cape Cod and the Islands. In addition to wind damage and power outages (more below), high winds also mean coastal flooding and erosion risks. The entire eastern Massachusetts coast, plus Cape Cod and Nantucket, are under a coastal flood warning from 3am to 7pm Tuesday.

Cape Cod Weather is putting the risk of power outages at "high" for coastal southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and Martha's Vineyard; Nantucket faces a "moderate" risk. To make matters worse, temperatures are expected to drop into the teens on Tuesday night, when power outages could be widespread.

Stay tuned for regular updates, and let us know - in the comments, or on social media - how things are going where you are.