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Dave Epstein

A mess of a storm system is headed our way

A layer of salt covered Atlantic Avenue in Boston in preparation for this weekend’s storm.
A layer of salt covered Atlantic Avenue in Boston in preparation for this weekend’s storm.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Our weekend storm is still on track, and Boston’s trend for less snow continues. I’m still thinking that the city will get just under 6 inches of snow with perhaps even less if the change-over occurs a little earlier. Notice that the 1- to 3-inch line isn’t too far away from Boston.

There could be a few snow showers Saturday afternoon as the winds turn easterly off the water. These showers won’t be the main event, but they could put a brief coating in a few spots right at the water’s edge.

Overnight, the snow will move into the area between 7 and 10 p.m. It will become steadier and heavier, falling quite hard around midnight with a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour.

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While that’s happening, warm air will be flooding northward at high levels in the atmosphere, changing the snow to sleet. The exact time of the changeover will determine how much snow falls. Since it could be snowing as hard as 2 inches an hour, if we get two more hours of snow, you can figure we’ll be at the higher end of the snowfall totals (and perhaps even an inch or two over). I don’t think we’ll have less snow than I predicted on the above map, but it’s weather, so there are surprises.

On Sunday, the rain line will move northward and could get into Boston for a few hours. If you look at the loop above, you’ll notice the snow (blue) moves into the area overnight and then we get the rain (green) moving very close to the city before sleet (red) comes back in at the end. Almost everyone will experience more than one type of precipitation in the next 24 hours, and some areas will have longer periods of snow and sleet than others. The storm track is basically going to move over Boston and flood the area with warm air for at least a few hours, which is the reason it’s such a mixed bag around here. What a mess.

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The forecast is easier up in northern New England, which will see mostly snow with perhaps a mix of sleet along the coast.

Some models are forecasting 4 types of precipitation around Boston in this storm.
Some models are forecasting 4 types of precipitation around Boston in this storm.(weatherbell)

Toward Sunday night, temperatures will plunge, and any leftover slush will refreeze solid. Temperatures on Martin Luther King Day will reach between 10 and 15 degrees with a gusty wind. It will feel very cold.

Cold air comes flooding back behind the storm on Sunday night. (COD Weather)

Readings will moderate on Tuesday, and a storm system in the middle of mext week will likely be mostly rain.


Follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom.