John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Meanwhile on the ground, there are automotive pile-ups, white-out conditions and reports of ferocious thundersnow.
And so it begins: A 19-car pileup in Maine. Streets emptied in Boston. And thundersnow – spotters have reported lightning strikes in Gloucester and Fall River, Massachusetts, and in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Thousands of people were already without power as of Friday evening. In a sign of how seriously public utilities are taking this blizzard, look at the staging area for the National Grid's work crews in Warwick, Rhode Island. It's like they're going to war or something:
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 miles up in the dead silence of space, a NASA/NOAA satellite is watching the blizzard unfold with a detached robot eye. The image at the top of this post is what GOES-13 observed earlier today as the major storm (which should not be called Nemo) was moving up the East Coast. Here's what the space agency had to say about the arresting shot (large version here):
A massive winter storm is coming together as two low pressure systems are merging over the U.S. East Coast. A satellite image from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 8 shows a western frontal system approaching the coastal low pressure area.
The satellite image, captured at 9:01 a.m. EST, shows clouds associated with the western frontal system stretching from Canada through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, into the Gulf of Mexico. The comma-shaped low pressure system located over the Atlantic, east of Virginia, is forecast to merge with the front and create a powerful nor'easter. The National Weather Service expects the merged storm to move northeast and drop between two to three feet of snow in parts of New England.
The evolution of this freezing behemoth is clear in this animation of satellite images from Wednesday to February. Stick around until the end to watch this nor'easter explode over New England (larger version):
The storm has an equally formidable presence on this satellite image from the Naval Research Laboratory:
Take a look at this depiction of the storm system's height, with towering cloud tops off the New England coast:
Finally, a more recent GOES image from Friday night shows the two storms have merged into one potent, America-punching fist. As of 7 p.m., there was six inches of snow on the ground in Taunton, Massachusetts, an amount that's only going to grow through the night:
Top image courtesy of NASA/NOAA.