Although some private forecasters are out on a limb with predictions of a heavy snowfall this weekend statewide, the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., was hedging its bets on Thursday because of conflicting guidance from computer models.
But the government forecasters acknowledge that a developing coastal storm may bring a plowable snowfall to the region from Saturday night into Sunday.
The problem, according to meteorologist Hugh Johnson’s long-range outlook, is that the latest computer models are all over the map when it comes to predicting where the heaviest snow will fall. Storms such as this one that are expected to develop off the Delmarva Peninsula as another system approaches from the Great Lakes are notorious for confounding forecasters two or three days ahead of time.
The deciding factor for the Berkshires depends on how intense the coastal storm becomes, and how close it approaches Cape Cod — the closer, the more snow we get. Farther out to sea and eastern Massachusetts gets the brunt of the bad weather.
According to Johnson, trends will have to be monitored to determine how significant the snowfall turns out to be. Another complication with a strengthening late-February sun angle and longer daylight is the potential for milder air mixing in, holding down the amount of snow.
“There are still a lot of uncertainties with this upcoming system,” Johnson cautioned. As of Thursday morning, the best bet is for a moderate snowfall region-wide, with possibly heavier amounts in western Massachusetts and lower totals in eastern New York. “We are concerned this will be a heavy wet snow, especially in the valleys,” Johnson added.
At Accuweather.com, a cautious outlook is in order, according to meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
“A significant storm will impact New England Saturday into Sunday,” he stated. “The question is how will marginal temperatures affect the extent and duration of rain and snow.”
If the storm develops to its full potential, portions of central New England could be on the receiving end of a foot or more of wet snow with strong wind and colder air being drawn into the storm, Sosnowski added. If the storm ends up being on the weak end of the spectrum, more rain would be involved with much lower snowfall totals.
The National Weather Service in Taunton, near Boston, cited “the big concern that this will be a wet snow across much of the region, which could lead to some downed tree limbs or power outages.”
At WCVB-TV in Boston, meteorologist Harvey Leonard posted a warning that more than a foot of heavy, wet snow could fall in the interior portions of Massachusetts. But few other forecasters, government or private, were willing to make that leap, at least as of Thursday.