Two storms to hit region later this week

A jogger runs along a path in Bluff Point State Park in Groton during the snow storm Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
A jogger runs along a path in Bluff Point State Park in Groton during the snow storm Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Semblances of winter seem to finally be on their way, as two storm systems and a sliver of the polar vortex are set to hit the state over the long weekend.

With heavy rains, snow, flash freezes and temperatures dipping below 10 degrees, residents of southeastern Connecticut are being warned to drive mindfully, or not at all, during the turbulent weather.

It's all set to begin Thursday night when the first storm, bringing a light dusting of snow, comes through. Gary Lessor, a meteorologist and assistant director with The Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said he expects no more than an inch of snow.

Still, it’s the timing that is cause for concern: Friday’s morning commute might be slippery, he said, causing possible delays and slowed traffic.

By Friday afternoon, however, as the first storm eases away, temperatures will rise enough for a pleasant Saturday morning, Lessor said, with highs of 25 or 30 degrees — a comfort that won't last for long.

The weekend's second storm will then develop late Saturday night, bringing a bit more snow as temperatures drop between 15 and 25 degrees, then a large amount of rain as temperatures rise into the 40s on Sunday.

“The rain may take a little longer to hit Norwich and Colchester, and those northern areas may still see a little sleet and freezing rain before transitioning,” he said. "Groton will see the rain first."

Heavy rains will persist throughout Sunday, with strong, gusty winds up to 50 mph.

The dramatic ending to the weekend's unstable weather will be the backside of the second storm, Lessor said, when cool air comes rushing in, bringing more snow to the region late Sunday afternoon or early evening.

Lessor said at that point, there could be potential for a few more inches of snow and the possibility of a flash freeze, especially as a cold front is set to follow.

“A lobe of the polar vortex (or more simply, cold air circulating in the Arctic) is coming down from Canada,” Lessor said. “With that will come very cold temperatures.”

On Monday, highs will hover around 20 degrees with a wind chill in the single digits. Temperatures will then dip even further Monday night into Tuesday, hitting a high of 0 to 5 degrees.

But such extreme temperatures aren’t too out of the ordinary, Lessor said. “It’s not like we aren’t talking about weeks of this stuff. This is for two days, and we expect that in winter."

The good news is that temperatures will level out again by Wednesday, Lessor said, as the polar vortex continues to circulate and move on.

“It’s later in the month and throughout the beginning of February that we are still keeping our eye on,” he said. “The polar vortex could come back then, but we will have to see.”

In preparation for the ice and snow, public works departments across the region are gearing up, many already with coverage plans in place. City of Groton highway department went through a round of double checks on their equipment, as well topping off trucks with salt and coverage planning Wednesday, while New London public works also held its meetings to schedule coverage over the weekend.

Brian Sear, the director of New London public works, said Wednesday his staff and equipment were already well prepared.

"We are ready for it, but it's not clear what it will be or how much we will get. Every storm is unique with its own temperaments and density," he said. "But we are prepared."

With Norwich expecting slightly more snow and sleet, public works director Ryan Thompson said he is seeing that his trucks are preloaded and topped off and that plows are put on trucks.

Because the region's last snowfall hit in November, the department hasn't gone through as much salt as would be typical for this time of year, he said, making preparations for this weekend's storm slightly easier.

"We are good on budget, salt, personnel," he said. "Bring it on!"

m.biekert@theday.com

 

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