Think Thursday's Storm Was A Blizzard? Think Again.

Jan 2, 2018

Temperatures dropped low enough  Sunday to break a long-standing record. It was 3 degrees below zero on Sunday, which broke a 106-year-old record of 1 below zero set in 1912, according to the National Weather Service.

 

Block Island was the only place in Southern New England that technically experienced a blizzard on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Despite whiteout conditions, punishing winds and fast-falling snow, it was just another winter storm for most of the region.

Shoveling out in Pawtucket.
Credit Juan Rodriguez

To qualify for a blizzard, the forecasting agency said, falling or blowing snow must reduce visibility to a quarter mile or less for three consecutive hours, and winds must frequently gust at 35 miles an hour or more. Conditions recorded on Block Island met those criteria between 8:30 a.m. and just after noon.

Near-blizzard conditions were recorded in Providence, Newport, Boston, Plymouth and North Smithfield, the agency said. 

Wide-spread power outages lasting into the night, which were the main concern as another blast of arctic cold hit the region, never materialized. Utility companies were able to restore power to a little more than a thousand customers in Rhode Island and thousands more in Massachusetts, who lost electricity during the storm.

Roads were mostly cleared by Friday morning, although many schools remained closed. Flights began resuming at area airports, but airport officials urged passengers to continue checking with their airlines for specific flight information.

Public buses resumed service Friday in Rhode Island.

Snow on Newport's First Beach, the morning after the storm.
Credit John Bender

State officials throughout New England continued to warn residents to protect themselves from the cold. Connecticut was bracing for a possible record low, with wind chills forecast to dip as low as 40 degrees below zero.

"Those are extremely dangerous conditions and can affect body function relatively quickly," said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy."

The continued cold risked keeping plumbers busy fixing burst and frozen pipes.

At the height of the storm, Rhode Island's Department of Transportation reported state roads were passable, but in many places, plows did not keep pace with the snow. Spinouts and accidents were a common sight on highways and elsewhere. State police said they responded to 121 calls for road assistance and helped 89 cars off roadways during the storm.

Winds Whip RI & South Coast Even As Snow Weakens

The possibility of power outages remained the main concern as a fierce winter storm blew through Rhode Island on Thursday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some communities, and setting the stage for the coldest temperatures to hit the state in many years.

Raimondo Offers Update; No State of Emergency

During a 5 p.m. briefing at state Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Cranston, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she saw no reason to call a state of emergency. She said her main concern was drivers staying off the roads to allow crews to do their work of clearing snow, and for residents to have a backup plan if they lose power, with high winds expected to intensify in the evening and overnight to Friday.

A spotter in Pawtucket recorded 16 inches of snow late Thursday afternoon.
Credit Juan Rodriguez

Raimondo said residents should call National Grid if they lose power and make a plan to go somewhere else if the outage is expected to last more than a few hours. The mercury may hit negative digits for part of Friday and Saturday, before climbing back to more typical winter temperatures.

The governor said municipal warming stations should be the first go-to for residents seeking a place with power. The state has also opened five warming stations, at URI, RIC, and the Newport, Lincoln and Warwick campuses of CCRI.

Raimondo's ban on tractor trailers on state roads was expected to remain in place until 9 p.m. Thursday. In an apparent reference to the governor's plan to toll large trucks to pay for bridge improvements, Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton) asked on Twitter if the governor has something against tractor-trailers -- and later said her remark was a joke. State Rep. Robert Nardolillo (D-Coventry), a candidate for U.S. Senate, suggested on Twitter that the governor might be going too far with the partial travel ban. (Update: Nardolillo later said he actually speaking in favor of her ban on tractor trailers.)

Overnight Forecast

Gusty winds shook bare tree branches, blew snow off the roofs of buildings and pushed wind chill values into the teens early Thursday evening. Snowfall appeared to be tapering, and forecasters turned their attention to a bitter arctic cold front expected to sweep the region.

A snow plow in Newport.
Credit John Bender

"We have a wind chill watch out for Friday through Saturday afternoon, which very well may have to get extended," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It’ll probably be turned into a warning once we get the snow out of the way."

The wind chill Friday night was expected to reach negative 18 with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Dunham said it’s important for people to remove any wet slushy snow to prevent it from freezing and to dress in layers.  

Thousands Lose Power In MA, Many RI Customers See Power Restored 

More than 7,800 National Grid customers in Massachusetts were without power late Thursday afternoon. In New Bedford and Dartmouth, more than 1,200 Eversource customers had lost power.

Meanwhile, National Grid reported some progress restoring power to Rhode Island customers. Just 173 customers remained without power at 4 p.m., down from more than 1,000 earlier in the day.

State officials have warned residents to prepare for power outages even after the snow has passed, due to strong winds predicted overnight.

National Grid Reports 1,000 Customers Without Power 

A little more than 1,000 National Grid customers in Rhode Island experienced power outages by mid-afternoon Thursday, while the storm continued to blow. Most of the outages were in Pawtucket and Providence, with a few scattered elsewhere around the state.

You can find the latest information and report outages here.

Newporters Venture Out Into Rare Winter Wonderland

Surrounded by ocean, Newport is often spared some of the worst New England weather. But the City by the Sea was at the center of this weather event. Snow covered roads and wind whipped buildings at speeds as high as 46 miles per hour on Thursday afternoon. 

Broadway, usually a busy Newport thoroughfare, was empty on Thursday.
Credit John Bender

That didn't stop some people from venturing outside. 

Tegan Kearns was walking down the street carrying her dog, Ryder. She said she was unable to get her car out of her driveway, so she and her pooch were planning to ride out the rest of the storm at her boyfriend's place, almost a mile down the road. 

"It's not too bad," Kearns said. "I'm breaking a sweat trying to get through the snow anyway. I haven't seen it this bad in a long time to be honest."

In 2014, much of New England was hammered with a series of snowstorms over the course of just a couple of months. 

Shoveling snow from his steps and front walk, Will Hall wasn't waiting for this storm to let up.

"I think it's best to do this job a little at a time," said Hall. "It's much easier when the snow's all cleared if it's been halfway done."

Though Newport doesn't always get this kind of snowfall, Hall was hardly complaining.

"I kind of like it," said Hall. "It makes everybody pause and reflect." 

Tegan Kearns and her dog Ryder were trudging down Newport's deserted main road, Broadway towards her boyfriend's house a little less than a mile away.
Credit John Bender / RIPR

Mark Rotella, a physical therapist at Newport Hospital, saw patients Thursday morning, before snowshoeing home. 

 "I live, seven or eight streets away, and I figured it'd be a great opportunity to use these snowshoes," said Rotella.

He saw just one patient before closing the office for the rest of the day.

Young-Kil Park was trying to shovel out a parking space on the sidewalk near his home.
Credit John Bender

Amid Winter Storm, Raimondo Urges Residents To Prepare For Power Outages

As an intense Nor'easter barreled through Rhode Island Thursday, Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents to make a contingency plan in case they lose power and have to cope with unusually low winter temperatures anticipated over the next few days.

During a noon briefing at the state Emergency Management headquarters in Cranston, Raimondo called on motorists to stay off the roads. She said periods of heavy snow are expected to continue through the early evening, and that winds will intensify after that. The governor banned the use of trailer trucks on state roads through 9 p.m. Thursday.

Credit Elisabeth Harrison

Raimondo called the combination of possible power outages and expected temperatures at or below zero a dangerous mixture. She said if residents lose power for more than a few hours, they should be ready to stay with a friend, family members, at a municipal warming center or a state warming center. The state has opened warming centers staffed by the RI National Guard at URI, RIC, and the Newport, Lincoln and Warwick campuses of CCRI.

Snow causes accidents, bus detours, drivers urged to be cautious

Road crews were out all day Thursday working to keep pace with heavy snowfall. And drivers didn’t make things any easier. By mid-day, Rhode Island's Department of Transportation, on its Twitter feed, reported numerous vehicle crashes, spin-outs and a dozen jack-knifed trucks on area highways, while snow continued to come down at a fast pace. 

State police say they responded to 121 calls for road assistance during Thursday’s storm from Westerly all the way to Little Compton. Troopers assisted 89 vehicles off the roadway and investigated several minor crashes. 

RIPR's Chuck Hinman found dangerous conditions on Interstate 95, as some drivers attempted to maintain speeds of 70 miles an hour. Plows struggled to keep up with quickly falling snow.

If you must go out on the road, Hinman's advice: beware of highway on ramps and off ramps. Many remained unplowed and some have been the sites of accidents. 

Public transit officials canceled all bus service as of 2 p.m., citing increasingly dangerous road conditions.

Weather Service Expands Blizzard Warning As Wind, Snow Arrive

Snow, swirling and falling heavily at times, hit Rhode Island by about 7 o'clock on Thursday morning, as predicted by weather forecasters.

The National Weather Service expanded a blizzard warning from the South Coast to most of Rhode Island, including Providence and East Greenwich, warning of low visibility and blowing and drifting snow.

The snow created a peaceful scene in East Greenwich.
Credit Joannie Hinman

New forecasts suggested snow totals could go as high as 18 inches in some places, 8-14 inches in others. Wind chill factors were expected to range between 10 degrees below zero to 25 degrees below zero.

State offices shut down in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where the state's director of transportation, Peter Alviti, asked businesses to do the same, if they possibly could.

Roadways were a mixed bag during morning commuting hours. Some had been treated and plowed, others were beginning to accumulate snow. Traffic was lighter than usual, but some drivers had clearly chosen not to heed warnings to stay off the roads, or were unable to do so.

RIPTA announced detours for more than a dozen bus lines because of the storm. The agency said riders should expect delays on all routes.

Arriving flights had all been cancelled at T.F. Green Airport on Thursday morning, although some departing flights were able to leave. Many flights to Boston's Logan Airport had also been cancelled.

Snow was beginning to accumulate in Bristol, R.I. on Thursday morning
Credit Staci Fischer

Winter storm warning takes effect early Thursday

Governors in Rhode Island and Massachusetts warned drivers to stay off the roads as much as possible Thursday due to predictions of dangerous conditions.

While morning commuters would likely be able to make it to their destinations, the return journey was expected to be precarious.

RIDOT Director Alviti urged drivers to stay put.

“It’ll be a combination of an accumulation that for a period of time may get ahead of the capabilities of our snowplows to keep up with it. At 3 inches per hour that’s an extremely high intensity,” Alviti warned. “But more importantly, with 45 mile per hour winds it’s going to create visibility issues.”

RIDOT has about 140 trucks in its fleet and access to another 450 vehicles operated by independent contractors, who will be available as needed, officials said. The department expected to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to the storm, with tow trucks and tree crews stationed throughout the state as well.

Alviti said the worst of the snow should end around 7 o'clock Thursday evening. He was optimistic that crews would be able to clear the roads in time for the Friday morning commute.

In Warwick, Mayor Scott Avedisian also called for motorists to keep their cars at home. "As long as people stay off the roads, we're doing fine," he said ahead of mid-day. Not many motorists were driving in Warwick, although some residents expressed disappointment that some of their favorite businesses are not open during the storm, Avedisian said.

Blizzard Warning Issued For Some Coastal Areas Ahead Of Winter Storm

The National Weather Service put coastal portions of Southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island, including Newport, under a blizzard warning from 7 a.m  to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Meteorologists said heavy wind and snow will blanket the area, beginning during the morning commute.

Many schools and state offices shut down in advance of the storm.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Inland areas and southern Rhode Island remained under a Winter Storm Warning as of Wednesday evening.

"Very hazardous and dangerous travel conditions, starting right from the get-go early Thursday morning, and that’s probably going to continue mid-day until the afternoon hours," said Weather Service Meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell.

Snow accumulations were expected to range from six to 10 inches, to as many as 14 inches over Northern Rhode Island. Winds gusting up to 60 miles an hour were considered a possibility in some areas, leading to forecasts for whiteout conditions and drifting snow.

"Very unprecedented low pressure center really deepening down over the Gulf of Maine, something that we really haven’t seen in a long time," said Sipprell. "We just haven't seen such a rapid storm development like this."

Many schools canceled classes for Thursday, and Providence school officials announced closures on Friday too. Delays and cancellations are expected at area airports. More information on what is open and what is closed, including schools and parking bans is available here.

Rhode Island’s Department of Transportation said road crews are scheduled to report for duty by midnight, as they prepare for the first flakes to start falling in the early morning hours.

RIDOT has about 140 trucks in its fleet and access to another 450 vehicles operated by independent contractors, who will be available as needed, officials said. The department expected to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to the storm.

Winter Storm Warning Posted For RI, MA

A winter storm warning will go into effect starting at 1 a.m. on Thursday and will last until 1am on Friday. The warning is for the whole state except for Block Island, which is under a blizzard warning, according to Allan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service  Forecast Center in Taunton, MA.

Credit National Weather Service

Dunham said at this point, nine to 11 inches are expected across the state. He warned that although commuters would be able to make it to their destinations, the return journey would be precarious and that people should stay put. 

The snowstorm is considered a "bombogenesis" storm otherwise known as a bomb storm. Dunham explained what exactly bombogenesis is.