After the Storm, a Deep Freeze
The snow, sleet and freezing rain that covered the region exited the east coast of Massachusetts on Sunday night and was replaced by Arctic cold that meteorologists say is going to freeze the area into Monday night.
Temperatures expected to dip below zero and dangerously cold wind chills, forecast to reach as low as 20 degrees below zero, led the National Weather Service to issue a a wind chill warning until 7 p.m. Monday.
“It’s winding down in terms of the precipitation impacts, but it’s just getting started in terms of bringing in that Arctic chill,” NWS Meteorologist Kim Buttrick said shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday.
Meteorologists had warned of a significant winter storm with the potential of anywhere from 8 to 16 inches of snow from Saturday into Sunday. The snowfall total ended up being on the lesser end of the forecast, with 8 inches of snow accumulation measured by a “trained spotter” in Lowell, according to Buttrick. In Fitchburg and Leominster, around 6 inches of snow was measured.
“As the storm evolved, leading up to it, it did trend warmer, so that dampened down the snowfall amounts that we were originally thinking from three days ago,” Buttrick said.
Despite the lesser totals, the storm still “packed a wallop,” she added.
The wintery precipitation caused issues in Leominster when a plow truck flipped onto its side and slid down High Street Sunday about 10:20 a.m. No injuries were reported.
In Lowell, there were no motor-vehicle accidents or power outages as a result of the storm, Lowell Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward reported about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“The firefighters were out all day shoveling out hydrants,” Winward said. “Things could have been much worse if we had widespread power outages with the cold weather.”
As for the cold weather, that’s only going to get much worse, Buttrick stressed.
Temperatures on Sunday night are expected to reach a low around zero, and readings that could reach below zero, according to Buttrick. Monday’s high is predicted to be around 5 to 10 degrees, with readings again possibly going below zero Monday night.
The arctic cold could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes, the NWS website states.
“It’s a dangerous arctic chill that is moving in across the region on strong northwest winds,” Buttrick said. “We are talking about northwest winds blowing between 15 to 25 mph with some higher gusts. If the cold isn’t bad enough, then you add in the wind, which is why we posted a wind-chill advisory.”
Due to the frigid temperatures, Winward encouraged people to keep an eye on water pipes, particularly those on outside walls.
“I anticipate frozen and broken water pipes over the next few days because of cold weather,” the chief said. “Open cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms to allow heat to get at water pipes.”
Winward also suggested homeowners not turn heat down at night; let water drip from a faucet; add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces; and seal cracks and openings around windows, doors and at sill plates.
Due to the weather forecast, MBTA officials asked customers to allow for an extra 10 to 15 minutes of travel time on Monday morning, and to exercise caution when walking around busways, pedestrian paths and platforms.
“Given the extreme temperatures and icy conditions predicted, we strongly urge our customers to plan ahead,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak stated in a press release. “Stay current with weather and service information, allow for extra time, and be safe when traveling.”
The temperatures are set to trend upward the rest of the week, according to Buttrick. The NWS website shows a high in the mid-20s and sunny skies on Tuesday; a high reaching nearly 40 degrees with a chance of snow and sleet on Wednesday; and a high around 50 degrees with rain Thursday.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.