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December 30. 2012 10:36PM

Weather forecasters: 2013 will get off to a frigid start

There was plenty of snow falling across New Hampshire in the final days of 2012, but as 2013 opens it will be the temperature that drops instead of flakes.

Much of the state is snow covered as the year comes to a close, and the New Year will bring with it the coldest temperatures thus far this season.

"We are looking at very frigid conditions mid-week," said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. "It could go below zero in Concord Tuesday night and into the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, then struggle to get out of the teens. It will be a jolt to the system."

Hawley said that to date, Concord has received 14.4 inches of snowfall. Compare that to the 13.8 inches the city received over a three-month span, from December through February, last winter, and it looks like the total accumulation figures are headed much higher in the winter of 2013.

"It's looking like we'll have much more snow this winter, at least right now," said Hawley. "The temperatures, the storm pattern, they are all pointing to higher snow totals than last year."

While the snowfall figures for official winter last year were low, technically Concord is currently 2.2 inches behind where it typically is on December 31 - and 26.3 inches behind where it was for the overall snowfall season at this time a year ago, thanks to the October Surprise storm that dumped more than 22 inches in the region.

While the probability of more snowfall in the state is low over the next 10 days (with partly to mostly sunny skies and a 10 percent chance of snow on just one day, Tuesday), residents should be prepared to bundle up.

The Manchester area is forecast to see the mercury struggle to top 22 degrees Fahrenheit both Wednesday and Thursday, with a low of 3 degrees.

"There will be a brief warm-up into the 30s on Friday, but then things look to turn colder again next weekend," said Hawley.

Those readings are well below what Granite Stater residents experienced last winter. With an average temperature of 31.3 degrees, the winter of 2011-2012 was the third warmest winter (December through February) since 1896 in the Northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

The state's ski areas have welcomed the snow and colder temperatures.

"It's nice to see snow and not more rain," said Alice Pearce, president of Ski New Hampshire, the state's industry trade association. "The ski areas are off to a much better start this year in terms of colder temperatures and snow-making operations, so the amount of terrain open this year is ahead of where many were last year."

As commuters head back to work this week after holiday vacations and two snowstorms, New Hampshire State Police are reminding drivers and truckers of the dangers of not removing snow and ice from the tops of vehicles, especially oversized trucks.

Snow and ice falling from a moving truck creates hazardous driving conditions for other vehicles around them, and can result in fines and/or civil liability penalties for failing to make reasonable efforts to remove the snow or ice accumulations.

Under state law, drivers can be cited for driving a vehicle in a manner that "endangers" or "is likely to endanger any person or property."

pfeely@unionleader.com

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