What's a Nor'easter?
...and What to Expect
A nor'easter is winter's most violent storm and usually happen anytime between October and April. They occur when the cold arctic air from the north combines with the moist air from the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic ocean off the east coast.
Forming strong areas of low pressure, the storm then either moves up the east coast into New England or out into the sea.
If the nor'easter storm moves up the east coast and the area of low pressure stays to the west of Massachusetts cities like Boston, Salem and Gloucester, precipitation will usually result in the form of rain. These kind of storms are known as on-shore forming.
If the low pressure stays slightly off the coast of Massachusetts, these cities may see a combination of freezing rain, sleet, and snow. These types of nor'easter storms are known as off-shore forming and are the ones that make the news as they cause traffic snarls, power outages, and intense waves as they crash into the beaches of coastal cities.
Snowfalls from a nor'easter storm can be anywhere from a few inches to feet...bad for driving but great for the ski slopes. However, the winds that accompany a nor'easter are nothing to sneeze at either. They can be very forceful and even exceed the wind speeds of hurricanes. Rotating in a counter-clockwise pattern, the wind direction comes from the northeast, giving the nor'easter its name.
The nor'easter storm can also become a blizzard when sustained winds reach at least 35 mph with freezing temperatures, visibilities reach 1/4 mile or less and the storm lasts at least 3 hours.
Over the years, there have been some notorious nor'easter storms that have written themselves into the history books. The 1991 Halloween nor'easter, dubbed the Perfect Storm caused damages across Massachusetts topping $100 million dollars and sunk the famous fishing boat, Andrea Gail that had sailed from Gloucester, MA.
The Blizzard of 1978 stranded travelers along Massachusetts' Route 128 and dumped so much snow, 3,500 cars were found abandoned and buried in the middle of the roads when cleanup efforts commenced. While these storms are at the very extreme and rare end of the spectrum, Massachusetts can expect anywhere from 2-5 'average' nor'easters per season. But not to worry, it will blow over and everything will return to normal before you know it.
Caught in a Winter Storm
The best thing to do is to just stay inside and wait out the storm until it's over but if you're caught outside and on the road, that's a different story. There's been many times where I've driven home from work right at the peak of a nor'easter storm and didn't have much of a choice.
If you are caught driving during one of these storms, or any other winter storm for that matter, the visibility from the blowing wind and snow can be very low and the road can be icy and slick. There's a few winter driving tips to ensure you make it to your destination safely:
Prepare Your Car for Winter
First is to be prepared ahead of time; check the weather report the night before and know what you are getting yourself into. Do I really want to be driving in this weather? If at all possible, cancel or postpone plans you've made to a more travel friendly day. Next is to build a checklist of essentials to bring and how to winterize your car:
At the very least, check the air in your tires to make sure they are at the correct PSI as well as checking the tire tread to ensure they will grip the road.
Another thing to do is to fill up any car fluids to their optimal levels including windshield washer fluid and gasoline. I always keep a spare jug of fluid in my car truck just in case I run out.
Winter Driving Tips
The most important thing I can stress when driving in a winter storm is to drive slowly and defensively.
If there's ever a situation where you're unsure who has the right of way, let the other guy go first. If someone's looking to pass you, let them pass. Better safe than sorry, right?
Anyway, here's a few winter driving tips I've learned through the years whether it was through other's experiences or from learning the hard way:
Search the SiteFind what you're looking for by typing in the box below:
Translate the Site
[?] Subscribe To This Site
Copyright© 2009-2012 Explore Massachusetts. All Rights Reserved.
- Powered by Site Build It -