Special Announcement: Merry Christmas/Happy New Year/Happy Holidays to All SKYWARN Spotters & Amateur Radio Operators!
Hello to all..
On behalf of the entire Amateur Radio Group at WX1BOX, the Amateur Radio station for NWS Boston/Norton Massachusetts, and the forecaster staff at NWS Boston/Norton, we would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holiday season. 2018 was another interesting year for weather across the region. Some of the highlights included the January major winter storm/near blizzard event, the 3 major March coastal storms and a severe weather season that saw an above average number of tornadoes yet they were largely from marginal tropical weather setups. The year ended with an early season November moderate snowstorm and Friday 12/21/18’s storm that brought record warmth, heavy rainfall and strong to damaging wind gusts.
As has been the case for the last several years, many of you provided critical reports, pictures and videos that supported and resulted in the protection of life and property and timely warnings being issued based on the surface reporting and ground truth that is so critical in confirming what the radar is or is not seeing. This information was then shared with the media, local, state and federal emergency management and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are always looking for situational awareness and disaster intelligence to gauge the level of response and recovery required for an incident. They remain extremely impressed with all the work that all of you do and they extend their appreciation. That appreciation of the weather and damage reports is highly recognized by many of the media outlets as well who thank SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators on television and over social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This mission could not be done without all of your support.
A quick synopsis of 2018 brought an interesting winter to Southern New England. A major winter storm shortly after New Year’s on January 4th brought a major winter storm across Southeast New England with snowfall totals ranging from 7-16″ with isolated higher amounts and snowfall rates as high as 2-3″ per hour along with thundersnow across the area. Wind gusts between 50-76 MPH occurred causing pockets of tree and power line damage with near blizzard conditions and one location (Block Island) meeting blizzard criteria. The storm was also known for major coastal flooding at the time of high tide in East Coastal Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands causing significant flooding in the Boston seaport district and in many of the vulnerable locations of East Coastal Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands.
In March 2018, a very active weather pattern emerged resulting in 3 major coastal storms affecting the region. The first storm that affected the region March 2nd through March 4th resulted in hurricane force wind gusts in Southeast New England with some areas gusting over 90 MPH to around 100 MPH and very significant wind damage across Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts. Power outages numbered several hundred thousand and lasted for several days. Heavy rain accompanied this coastal storm but some heavy wet snow affected portions of Northwest Massachusetts as well. Some remarked that this storm was the closest they have seen to a hurricane in recent memory. In some areas of Southeast New England, whole towns were without power due to the strength of the winds. In addition, major coastal flooding occurred in East Coastal Massachusetts and different from the January storm, the flooding occurred over multiple high tide cycles creating more significant coastal flood damage given the multiple tide cycles impacted.
The second March storm occurred during March 7th and 8th. This storm brought less wind to the region but still had wind gusts 50-60 MPH along the coastal areas and some minor coastal flooding. The main impact from this storm, however, was from heavy wet snow causing significant tree and power line damage with several hundred thousand without power and in some areas that overlapped the prior storm but affected new parts of the region as well. Snow totals ranged from 6-12″ with isolated higher amounts in our coverage areas of up to 16″. Thundersnow occurred in portions of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Central Massachusetts. Just northwest in Berkshire County Massachusetts, snowfall totals ranged between 2-3 feet but was a much drier and powdery snow in this area.
The third March storm occurred on March 13th. This resulted in a blizzard in many locations with widespread snowfall amounts of 10-20″ with isolated higher amounts. Hurricane force wind gusts again occurred but more confined to Cape Cod and the Islands with wind gusts 50-70 MPH elsewhere in East Coastal Massachusetts and Southeast New England. A significant amount of power outages occurred especially around Cape Cod and the Islands and portions of Southeast New England. Power outages lasted up to 3 days on the Cape and Islands. Coastal flooding wasn’t as much of a factor due to lower tides that occurred during this storm.
During these three storms, the move of the NWS office was in full swing. Thanks to strong cooperation at the NWS office, we were able to keep key Amateur Radio antennas up and brought in Amateur Radio Go Kits to be on the air during these storms. NWS was grateful for this extra effort and pleased that the plans we had in place for contingencies in case major storms occurred in this timeframe were covered properly.
At the new NWS office, Amateur Radio equipment was setup in time to have NWS SKYWARN Amateur Radio Operations during the Boston Marathon which featured the coldest, wettest, windiest weather in over 30 years. The support at NWS provided weather situational awareness into MEMA and the NWS forecaster deployed at the State EOC in Framingham and helped to validate this approach of having the Amateur Radio station staffed especially during any kind of weather event but also in non-weather events for any type of weather support needed.
The Summer and for that matter the Fall of 2018 featured a severe weather setup that largely had many marginal setups outside of Tuesday May 15th which resulted in the first Storm Prediction Center Moderate risk for severe weather in several years. While the worst wind damage and tornadic events were southwest of our forecast area on that day, very large hail over 2″ in diameter occurred in Granby and East Hartland, CT causing damage to cars, windows and even house siding along with pockets of wind and lightning damage. We would then go over a month before the next severe weather event on Monday June 18th with pockets of significant wind damage across North-Central Middlesex and Western Essex County Massachusetts. There were also several tornado warnings during that June event but no tornado touchdowns occurred. Several funnel clouds were spotted along with pockets of wind damage in parts of Western Massachusetts.
As we moved through July into October 2018, a very tropical air mass affected the area for much of these months. Severe weather setups were marginal but often were classified by an environment that could produce brief tornadoes. This occurred on a number of days resulting in an above average of number of tornadoes in Southern New England including tornado occurrences well into October and several waterspouts that occurred on Tuesday October 23rd and again on Monday October 29th. On Tuesday October 23rd, 4 tornadoes occurred in one day along with several waterspouts. The severe weather setup was an unexpected one caused by high low level instability as shown on a couple models along with significant turning in the atmosphere as measured by high helicity values over the area. A couple of key statistics from the severe weather season included that Connecticut broke their state record for tornadoes and in the NWS Boston/Norton coverage area, a total of 11 tornadoes occurred which is well above the average of 2 tornadoes in a given season.
As we moved into late October and November, a coastal storm would affect the region on the last Saturday in October and a storm system on the first Friday into Saturday of November would bring heavy rain of 1-3″ with higher amounts of up to 4″ followed by a damaging wind event with wind gusts in the 50-70 MPH range and pockets of tree and wire damage and power outages. On November 15th into early November 16th, the first significant snowfall would affect the region with a widespread 2-8″ of snow across interior and some near coastal locations of Massachusetts and Rhode Island with some wind gusts in the 50 to 60 MPH range. Some tree and power line damage was noted from the wet snow in the interior and from the wind gusts near the coast with this storm event. After some smaller storm events, the storm system on Friday 12/21/18 would cause pockets of tree and power line damage, wind gusts 40-60 MPH with higher wind gusts in the higher terrain up to 72 MPH as observed in Milton, MA – Blue Hill and rainfall of 1-3″ generally across the region with higher amounts close to 4″ and minor coastal flooding during a couple high tide cycles extending into Saturday 12/22/18.
As we move forward in 2019, we will be continuing our commitment to SKYWARN training. Planning has started and sessions will be posted for 2019 SKYWARN Training starting in January. Also for 2019, the Hurricane Awareness Tour will return to Southern New England for the first time since 2011. They will return to the area on Monday May 6th 2019 to TF Green State Airport in Warwick, RI.
We also know that we’ve continued to have a large influx of SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators after a full slate of SKYWARN Training classes. We will also look at ways spotters and Amateurs can become more active in supporting efforts to gather critical reports from other areas beyond where they are located and do so in a precise manner.
We will also continue to embrace new technologies while maintaining all the other technologies utilized to gather as much real-time and precise meteorological and damage report information as possible and this effort will be pushed more heavily after the NWS office move to Norton Massachusetts. We utilized DMR during the 2018 SKYWARN Recognition Day event and will be looking to add that capability when possible during activations. We will attempt to look at DSTAR Amateur Radio as an additional means for reporting during severe weather and we are still looking at a new Amateur Radio technology called NBEMS, the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System, as a potential means to gather weather spotter data digitally over Ham Radio. These are added capabilities that we will be looking at and will not replace the continued core technologies within VHF and UHF (2 Meters/440 MHz) SKYWARN Amateur Radio Repeaters and simplex capabilities, our usage of Echolink/IRLP Amateur Radio linked repeaters, Amateur Radio HF and 6 Meters capabilities as well as monitoring of weather stations ingested over APRS and into the Mesonet networks that have supported and helped with seeing what is happening on the ground.
We will also be looking at other ways to engage both Amateur Radio and non-Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters via other ways to get near real-time and historical spotter reports and near real-time video and pictures as well as historical video and pictures after a major severe weather event via a project the WX1BOX Amateur Radio team is working over the past year. Further details on this will be announced as the project progresses along with additional projects being worked over the past Spring as well. This will further enhance our abilities to gather situational awareness and disaster intelligence information in a short period of time
We continue to have our twitter feed setup and you can follow WX1BOX on Twitter by following our Amateur Radio Call-Sign, WX1BOX and have our WX1BOX Facebook page available as well. NWS Boston/Norton has also continued the use of their Twitter and Facebook feeds as well over the course of 2017. Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators can follow WX1BOX and ‘NWSBoston’ on Twitter and on Facebook can ‘like’ these pages. They are available via the following links:
WX1BOX Amateur Radio SKYWARN Facebook Page:
NWS Boston/Norton Facebook Page:
WX1BOX Amateur Radio SKYWARN Twitter Feed:
NWS Taunton Twitter feed:
We, again, want to provide a tremendous THANK YOU to all of you that supported SKYWARN and the National Weather Service during 2018. We wish everyone once again, a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holiday Season and hope people enjoy their time with family and friends during this joyous holiday season!
Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator
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