Another week, another nor'easter. What's going on?

Mary Tucciarone of Stonington Borough takes her two 7-year-old male black pugs Gus, left, and his brother Vinnie for a walk along Main Street in the borough during the early evening as a fourth nor'easter hits the area Wednesday, March 21, 2018.  (Tim Martin/The Day)
Mary Tucciarone of Stonington Borough takes her two 7-year-old male black pugs Gus, left, and his brother Vinnie for a walk along Main Street in the borough during the early evening as a fourth nor'easter hits the area Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (Tim Martin/The Day)

The snowfall totals from the region's fourth nor'easter in three weeks may be less than originally predicted, but as of Wednesday evening, the worst was still expected to come.

Rain, sleet and snow started falling Wednesday afternoon along the shoreline, giving way to waves of snow by about 4 p.m.

By 6:30 p.m. it became clear that predictions of up to 2 feet of snow would not likely come true; the National Weather Service's revised estimates Wednesday evening were for up to 8 inches in southern Connecticut between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Gary Lessor, the assistant director of The Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University, and many other meteorologists originally predicted periods of sleet would transition to steady snow about 3 p.m. But high pressure to the north kept the storm from coming as far north as they thought it would.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday evening warned that the snow and wind gusts up to 45 mph still could bring down tree limbs and power lines and cause outages.

Lessor said he expected coastal flooding accompanying the storm to be minor.

Most area schools chose to operate on a shortened schedule Wednesday. It was another disruption in a year when many schools have called off almost 10 days because of the weather.

Another nor'easter. What's going on?

First there was the March 2 nor'easter, which brought driving rains and gusts of up to 70 mph, uprooting trees along the way.

Five days later, another such storm dropped "thundersnow" on the region and especially wreaked havoc in Montville, where at one point 97 percent of customers were without power.

March 13 brought the third nor'easter in two weeks, pummeling parts of New London County with up to 18 inches of snow.

And then came Wednesday's storm, raising the question: Why so many Connecticut nor'easters?

Lessor said a persistent area of cold, high pressure in eastern Canada is blocking milder temperatures from moving to the north. It also means the storms aren't going across the Great Lakes, up to northern New England or down to the Carolinas as they might otherwise.

"It's created this perfect zone where these systems are going off the mid-Atlantic and up the northeast coast," Lessor said, calling the longevity of the pattern "abnormal."

"Storms typically go in different directions," he said. "You don't have storm after storm all coming to the same place."

The Weather Channel defines nor'easter as "a strong area of low pressure along the East Coast of the United States that typically features winds from the northeast off the Atlantic Ocean." Nor'easters often come with snow, but not always.

Despite the March beating, Lessor noted that snowfall totals in southeastern Connecticut are "just a little above normal." He didn't have exact season totals available but used Groton as a benchmark, saying it typically sees between 23 and 24 inches of snow yearly.

"It's all within three weeks, as opposed to the entire winter," Lessor said of the snowfall. "Whether we end up setting a March record at the end of this storm, that might be possible but, all in all, it's not a record-setting winter snowfall by any stretch."

He noted that just last month, a different pressure pattern was shipping storms toward the Great Plains and leaving Connecticut with unseasonably high temperatures.

Nobody minded that, he deadpanned.

With the high-pressure spot hanging in place, Lessor cautioned, the state isn't out of the woods. He's watching two storms — one that will hit this weekend, and another that should land Tuesday into Wednesday — and for now believes that they're more likely to bring rain than snow.

Lessor said dynamic systems like the ones the region has been seeing are hard to model day to day. When they're this far out, and being measured by satellite rather than on-the-ground observation stations, they're even less accurate.

"There are two opportunities for more snow," Lessor said. "At this point, we're not calling for either one" to pan out.

l.boyle@theday.com

m.shanahan@theday.com 

Harkness Chapel on the Connecticut College campus in New London is seen Wednesday evening, March 21, 2018, during the snowstorm.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Harkness Chapel on the Connecticut College campus in New London is seen Wednesday evening, March 21, 2018, during the snowstorm. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Norwich Free Academy students make their way to the school buses in the midst of a snow squall as classes dismiss early ahead of a nor'easter Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Snow showers during the day were expected to intensify into the evening with heavy snow forecast overnight. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Norwich Free Academy students make their way to the school buses in the midst of a snow squall as classes dismiss early ahead of a nor'easter Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Snow showers during the day were expected to intensify into the evening with heavy snow forecast overnight. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Vince Bartelli with East Lyme Public Works watches in his side mirror as his truck is reloaded with salt in preparation for when the snow starts Wednesday, March 21, 2018.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Vince Bartelli with East Lyme Public Works watches in his side mirror as his truck is reloaded with salt in preparation for when the snow starts Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Solange Campoverde, 6, skips over a puddle as she walks home from school with her mother, Imelda Ochoa, along Mercer Street on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in New London.  New London schools, including C.B. Jennings Elementary, where Ochoa is a first-grader, operated on a half-day schedule Wednesday due to the inclement weather.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Solange Campoverde, 6, skips over a puddle as she walks home from school with her mother, Imelda Ochoa, along Mercer Street on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in New London. New London schools, including C.B. Jennings Elementary, where Ochoa is a first-grader, operated on a half-day schedule Wednesday due to the inclement weather. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Emily McClenahan, the music teacher at West Vine Street School in Pawcatuck, escorts students to their buses as it hails outside, the beginning stages of the fourth nor'easter to hit the area within the last few weeks, on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Stonington public schools decided to dismiss students early due to the storm. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Emily McClenahan, the music teacher at West Vine Street School in Pawcatuck, escorts students to their buses as it hails outside, the beginning stages of the fourth nor'easter to hit the area within the last few weeks, on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Stonington public schools decided to dismiss students early due to the storm. (Tim Martin/The Day)

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