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December 19. 2013 1:09PM

Forecasters eye possible weekend ice storm

Five years after a crippling ice storm caused the worst power outage in state history, forecasters are warning of another potential ice storm threat for parts of New Hampshire this weekend.

Areas where icing will occur are still unclear, but northern New Hampshire is under the gun and it’s possible that ice could be a problem in southern locations as well, according to Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

The storm would be an unwelcome visitor, arriving on the last weekend before Christmas and threatening those final days of the holiday shopping season.

The severity of the storm depends on where a cold front sets up across New England.

Hawley said the front will slide south with cold air at low levels. Warm air will ride over the cold air at the surface, leading to a prolonged period of freezing rain that’s expected to begin Saturday night and last into Sunday, he said.

Areas to the north of the front will see freezing rain, while those on the southern side will be warm enough for plain rain.

Hawley said the northern half of the state is the most likely area to see freezing rain, but the southern zone could be affected as well if the front moves far enough south.

More than an inch of rain is expected with the storm, Hawley said, with the heaviest possibly falling in central areas.

“People should be aware that there could be significant icing, even in southern areas. We know there’s going to be icing, but narrowing down the point where it’s going to be the most severe is difficult,” Hawley said.

High temperatures on Saturday are expected to range from the lower 30s in the north to upper 30s in the south, dropping into the 20s throughout the state during the overnight hours, Hawley said.

On Sunday, temperatures will likely be in the upper 20s in northern areas and possibly mid-40s in the extreme southern part of the state. But again, Hawley said, the temperatures will depend on the location of the front.

Could the storm be as bad as the one on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12, 2008?

“It’s certainly possible, we just don’t know,” Hawley said.

That storm left more than 400,000 homes and businesses in the dark for several days; some didn’t see power restored for two weeks or a little longer.

The ’08 storm went down in the record books for causing the largest power outage, followed by another storm in 1998 that devastated northern New England.

Hawley encouraged residents to pay close attention to the forecast over the next couple of days.

“Folks have to keep that in back of their minds and do some planning,” he said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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