NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 22, 2011

Snowfall plows toward record

Coldest weather in recent years expected over the weekend

NEWBURYPORT — If it feels like it's the snowiest winter you can remember in a long time, there's good reason.

Yesterday's storm dumped seven inches of snow on the Newburyport area, bumping the snowfall total this month to 33.5 inches — a little more than twice the normal January snowfall, Salisbury-based National Weather Service observer Ray Whitley said.

It's the eighth-snowiest January since local record keeping began in 1954, and it's possible that it will shoot up in the record ranks within a matter of days. A powerful storm is expected to hit the region Tuesday and Wednesday. Forecasters aren't yet sure how much snow is on the way.

"As far as the storm, that's a bit premature," said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

In Newburyport, street-side snow piles are high in many neighborhoods, with a solid layer of snow frozen in them due to rain that hit the area earlier in the week. Whitley said there's good reason why the snow piles seem so large this year.

"What we're seeing this year is a rash of coastal storms, which is unusual. They're the heaviest storms — like the Blizzard of '78. They have the heaviest snowfall," Whitley said.

This winter is certainly on track to beat the normal snowfall, which is 54 inches. Thus far, there's been about 46 inches of snow, Whitley said.

Local schools were closed yesterday. For most students, it marks the fourth snow day in January. Schools typically build five snow days into their calendar.

Police departments recorded few storm-related accidents yesterday, but most main roads were clear by noon. However in Hampton, N.H., police reported a 15-car pileup on Interstate 95.

At the time of this crash, traffic was already slowing because of a tractor trailer that had just been removed after having gone off the road. At the same time, a whiteout condition occurred from the blowing snow, which greatly reduced visibility, according to police.

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