Season’s first Nor’easter slams New England with heavy snow and high winds, leaving many without power
The highest snowfall total recorded was 18 inches in Carrabassett Valley in Maine, according to the National Weather Service
A storm that battered parts of New England over the weekend brought strong winds, heavy rain, and snow, which left many people without electricity. New England represents the US states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. While the official start to winter is still weeks away, parts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire recorded more than a foot of snow, thanks to the season’s first nor’easter. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the highest snowfall total recorded was 18 inches in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. Peak wind gusts reached more than 40 miles per hour (mph), and at Cape Cod, a wind gust of more than 73 mph was recorded.
Here's a look at snowfall and wind gust reports from the Nor'easter that impacted New England yesterday into this morning. Over a foot of snow fell across portions of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. A wind gust of 73 mph was measured on Cape Cod. ☃️🌬️ pic.twitter.com/fc0UxOsaI1— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) December 6, 2020
A nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so named because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April. According to scientists, nor’easters usually develop in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles east or west of the East Coast. These storms progress usually northeastward and typically attain maximum intensity near New England and the Maritime provinces of Canada. They nearly always bring precipitation in the form of heavy rain or snow, as well as winds of gale force, rough seas, and, occasionally, coastal flooding to the affected regions.
“The nor’easter winds down over New England as the system moves northeastward into Canada. The snow over Northern Maine will slowly wind down overnight Sunday (December 6). Snow showers will linger over Northern New England through Tuesday (December 8). The snow will aid in producing hazardous driving conditions over the area,” said the Weather Prediction Center of the NWS on December 6.
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) director Pete Rogers urged citizens to travel only if necessary during the worst of the storm. “With temperatures hovering around freezing, road conditions are expected to be extremely slick,” he cautioned on December 4.
Forecasters warned this storm had the potential to go through the process that meteorologists refer to as bombogenesis, and “they were right,” suggests AccuWeather. “Bombogenesis occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone,” explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz noted that in the current case, “this storm dropped from 1012 millibars over eastern Kentucky at 3 pm Friday (December 4) to 984 millibars at 3 pm Saturday (December 5) near Nantucket, Massachusetts, making it a bomb cyclone.”
Over 200,000 customers were without power in Maine alone on Sunday, and nearly 60,000 customers were without power in New Hampshire 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,” write experts. They add, “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.”
The region has been impacted by “treacherous roads and widespread power outages,” the National Weather Service in Portland/Gray Maine tweeted on December 6.
Compaction and melting is doing a number on snowfall totals, however treacherous roads and widespread power outages are still heavily impacting the region. Here's a pic of the office where snow has plastered the front of the building. Keep the reports coming! #NHwx #MEwx pic.twitter.com/8fNTKy9X72— NWS Gray (@NWSGray) December 6, 2020
Most regions in Maine were expected to have power back by Monday (December 7) or Tuesday, though some could be in the dark until Wednesday (December 9) evening, according to Central Maine Power (CMP). Workers have reported damage from fallen trees and tree limbs.
We are seeing significant tree and limb damage across our service area, like what can be seen here in Saco. pic.twitter.com/wSCGicaMky— Central Maine Power (@cmpco) December 6, 2020
“This storm caused significant tree and limb damage as a result of heavy, wet snow and strong winds. Crews worked hard overnight to ensure conditions were made safe, and those efforts will continue throughout the day today. Facing more wind today, our crews will work as quickly as possible to restore power to our customers,” said CMP executive chairman David Flanagan on Sunday. An update posted by CMP noted that it had restored power to over 133,000 customers.
Check out the last news regarding our restoration progress and estimated restoration times. CMP has now restored power to over 133,000 customers and won’t stop until we’ve reached restoration for all. https://t.co/SAiD4JwPiO pic.twitter.com/ZwFUZjioiC— Central Maine Power (@cmpco) December 7, 2020
The last update posted on December 7 by poweroutage.us, a website that tracks electricity use nationwide, top areas by power outages were Maine (89,260), and New Hampshire (8,482). About 43,000 customers in Massachusetts were without power on Saturday evening, according to MEMA. By Sunday evening, all but a few hundred had power restored.
Power lines can also pose a danger, the NWS cautioned. “Never touch a downed power line or a tree in contact with a downed line. Motorists are urged to slow down or move over and change lanes, when possible if approaching utility crews working on roadways,” it tweeted.
Very Important Reminder from @versantpower this morning. "Never touch a downed power line or a tree in contact with a downed line. Motorists are urged to slow down or move over and change lanes, when possible, if approaching utility crews working on roadways" #MEwx— NWS Caribou (@NWSCaribou) December 6, 2020
Authorities in Massachusetts also reminded its residents to stay away from downed utility wires, and always assume a downed power line is live. “Never attempt to touch or move wires and keep children and pets away from downed lines. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris, and could be live,” it advised.