Heavy snow, strong winds expected for Thursday storm

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Southern New England from late Wednesday night through late Thursday night with an ocean storm potentially bringing accumulating snow and strong winds.

The first flakes are expected to fall just before dawn on Thursday, with the intensity increasing throughout the day. That combined with gusty winds could potentially create blizzard-like conditions. A High Wind Watch has also been put in place for Thursday. 

The snow should taper off from west to east Thursday evening and night.

As of Tuesday, northern areas could see 8-12 inches of snow, while in Cape Cod there could be 3-5 inches of snow with rain also expected. Southern areas could see 5-8 inches of snow.

Travel may become difficult with slippery roads and drifting snow causing whiteout conditions.

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) is gearing up for the storm, expecting to activate the emergency operations center Thursday where state agencies and National Grid will converge.

RIEMA Director Peter Gaynor said the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is also preparing by pre-mixing road salt and sand ahead of the storm.

Northern winds will also strengthen throughout the day, with potential for gusts more than 30 mph. There is the potential for power outages across the area, especially over Cape Cod and the Islands where winds could be an upwards of 40-55 mph.

Gaynor said the biggest concern with this storm is the potential for power outages, which could leave some residents with no heat.

“What the real story is going to be, come Friday and Saturday, another deep arctic cold through New England,” he said. “If you had previous power outages from the snowstorm, that could be a problem.”

Gaynor said it is important for people to prepare for the storm by making sure they have a warm place to go should you experience a power outage.

Battalion Chief for East Providence Fire John Kelahan said a common cold weather call firefighters respond to is in regard to frozen or broken pipes. He suggests turning the heat up to prevent pipes from freezing and causing damage.

“Keeping the temperature down low, when the weather’s like this, it could really work against you,” Kelahan said.

Kelahan said anyone using a space heater should keep it away from furniture or bedding to prevent a fire from breaking out.

According to Kelahan, East Providence fire will be calling in extra crews during the storm.

“Our biggest things are the rescues because their response time and transport times elevate, so we’ll put an extra rescue in service maybe a couple of extra rescues in service,” Kelahan said. “It’s difficult enough in fire conditions but when you add the elements, the high snow, the cold and the wind, it makes the job that much more treacherous.”

With the potential for power outages and dangerous travel conditions, school cancellations and delays are likely on Thursday.

Airports will also be preparing for storm conditions and may begin to delay or cancel flights due to the expected weather.

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