Since 2000, the Southern New England Weather Conference has provided a place for weather enthusiasts and professionals to gather and share their knowledge and expertise regarding topics such as winter weather forecasting, severe weather, hurricanes, advances in the science of meteorology, and emergency preparedness, as well as numerous other topics. Now in it’s 18th year, the annual Southern New England Weather Conference was today in Foxboro, Massachusetts. This not-for-profit venture is sponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Taunton, Massachusetts, the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, and the Lyndon State College Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association.
The 2017 conference included presenters Matt Doody and Hayden Frank, both meteorologists with the NWS in Taunton, Steve Lehman of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, and individual presentations from, as well as a group panel discussion of, Boston-area broadcast meteorologists including A.J. Burnett, Harvey Leonard, Shiri Spear, Jacob Wycoff, Barry Burbank, Chelsea Priest, Ryan Hanrahan and Michael Page. A special honoree was the recently deceased Boston area broadcast meteorologist legend Dick Albert. Dick’s wife, children and grandchildren were in attendance to observe and be a part of a moving ceremony in his honor.
A fascinating case study was presented by Hayden Frank, who detailed two unusual New England tornadoes. The first tornado occurred on August 22, 2016 at approximately 3:20 AM in Concord, MA, a town about 20 miles northwest of Boston. This tornado was an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale that meteorologists use to measure the intensity of the tornado based upon damage observed. On this scale, an EF0 is the weakest and an EF5 is the strongest type of tornado. This particular tornado resulted in mainly tree damage along with minor structural damage to some houses, but fortunately there were no injuries. “What made this tornado quite unusual was that it did not contain any lightning. In fact, it was really the only game in town in terms of severe weather. Another unique aspect was that it was the first tornado to have occurred during the overnight hours, defined as occurring between midnight and 6 AM, in Massachusetts since 1970,” Mr. Frank explained. (Tornadoes aren’t completely rare in New England; we document an outbreak from earlier this year here.)
The strangeness continued to multiply when looking at the second tornado, a high end EF-1 tornado that occurred in a small part of the town of Goshen and much of adjacent Conway, MA; both of which are small towns in the northwest part of the state, during the evening hours of February 25, 2017. According to Mr. Frank, “What made this tornado so unique was the very unusual time of year for tornadoes in New England that it occurred. In fact, it was the first known tornado to have ever occurred in Massachusetts during the month of February since official tornado statistics began in 1950.” This tornado was part of a major severe weather outbreak for the mid-Atlantic and western New England region with 3 other reported tornadoes off to the southwest of western Massachusetts.
Several houses experienced significant damage along with numerous tree and power lines that were knocked down. There was one minor injury, but fortunately no serious injuries or fatalities occurred given the extent of the damage.
The conference wrapped up with a a round table of broadcast meteorologists from the Boston region. The team sat down and discussed what they expected out of the upcoming winter. The panel was in general agreement about two general subjects. The first was that the winter season may not have “shown its hand yet”, meaning that no strong signal or signals have yet shown up yet to shape the cold season (or if the signals have shown up, it is hard to pinpoint them). Secondly, even considering the first point above, this upcoming winter will likely be colder and snowier in New England and the Northeast when compared to last winter’s mild temperatures and general lack of snow.