Polar Vortex Could Bring Rare May Snow, Low Temps To US East

May 7, 2020, 11:02 PM
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 16: The Museum of Science lit in blue on April 16, 2020 in Cambrid...
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 16: The Museum of Science lit in blue on April 16, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Landmarks and buildings across the nation are displaying blue lights to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

BOSTON (AP) — The northeastern U.S. is about to get a cold spring farewell from winter’s bad boy, the polar vortex, which could bring rare May snowfall and record-low temperatures to some areas over the Mother’s Day weekend, forecasters say.

Usually the polar vortex is a batch of cold air that stays trapped in the Arctic all winter, but a couple times during the season, it wanders south and brings bone-chilling cold and snow to Canada and parts of the United States. This year the polar vortex stayed put, and the East had an unusually mild cold season.

Around this time of year, the polar vortex breaks up, but this breakup is a bit different, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

“The polar vortex didn’t do much the whole winter, but on the way out I guess it kind of sent a message: Just because I didn’t do much this winter, don’t think I can’t,” Cohen said Thursday.

A low pressure system off the coast of southern New England is pulling cold air down from the north, Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton, Massachusetts, said Thursday.

Forecasts called for perhaps as much as 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts on Friday into Saturday; an inch or so on grassy areas of central Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and western Connecticut; and rain with a few flakes possible in the Boston area, he said.

Massachusetts hasn’t had measurable snow in May since 2002, when 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) fell in the Berkshires. There hasn’t been measurable May snowfall in Boston since 1977, Dunham said.

Upstate New York could see an inch of snow, and further down in New York City and the Hudson River valley is likely to see mostly rain, according to Hunter Tubbs at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Temperatures may plummet to record lows. The May 9 record low in Boston is 35 degrees, also in 1977. Freeze warnings are in place for parts of Pennsylvania, Tubbs said, with freeze watches stretching into New Jersey and as far south as Maryland.

“Definitely below average temperatures for pretty much the whole East Coast,” he said. “It’s going to be a pretty good dip in the jet stream.”

In northern New England, the greatest chance for snowfall accumulations this weekend is across the higher elevations, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and in Coos County, and in northwestern Maine, Tubbs said. Sunday temperatures likely won’t get out of the 30s in the north, with 40s elsewhere.

“It’s definitely not too common to be getting snow this late in the season. But this will be a pretty impressive pattern shift,” he said.

He said records show snowfall in May in Maine and New Hampshire just a few times. In Portland, 5 inches (13 centimeters) of snow was recorded on May 11, 1945.

Some parts of northern Vermont were expected to get a mix of rain and snow early Friday morning. More snow showers were forecast for Friday night and Saturday morning.

The forecast didn’t surprise Rachel Kane, owner of Perennial Pleasures Nursery in East Hardwick, who said snow on Mother’s Day isn’t uncommon in that area.

“Up in this part of the state it’s happened frequently enough that we never put up our shade cloth until getting close to Memorial Day,” she said, laughing.

Winter-like weather is bad news for Massachusetts golf courses, which were allowed to reopen Thursday after being forced closed by the state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything is against us, absolutely,” said Therese Barry, one of the owners at the Bungay Brook Club in Bellingham.

“We’re a weather driven business,” she continued. “But to have this happen the minute we are open is quite unbelievable.”

The unusual goodbye is splitting the United States. It’ll be unseasonably cold from the Great Lakes east and record warm from the Rockies west, Cohen said.


Seth Borenstein in Washington; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Lisa Rathke in Marshfield, Vermont; and Michael Casey in Boston contributed to this story.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Tina Burnside, Kiely Westhoff and Amya Henry, CNN

Suspect in the shooting deaths of 4 people in Ohio was captured in Kansas

A suspect in the shooting deaths of four people at multiple sites outside of Dayton Ohio, has been arrested, police said.
1 day ago
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at news conference following the weekly Senate D...
Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav, CNN

Senate begins ‘vote-a-rama’ to advance Democrats’ sweeping health and climate bill

The Senate on Saturday voted to advance Democrats' sweeping health care and climate bill toward final passage, putting the package on track to pass the chamber as soon as this weekend.
1 day ago
FILE - Police responding to a scene....
Associated Press

Alabama town disbands police department over racist text

A racist text message sent by a police officer has prompted officials in a small Alabama town to disband their police department and fire the police chief and assistant chief.
1 day ago
The US and Indian militaries will hold high-altitude exercises in Auli in the Indian state of Uttar...
Vedika Sud, Barbara Starr, Sahar Akbarzai and Kathleen Magramo, CNN

US to take part in military exercise near India’s disputed border with China

The United States is to take part in a joint military exercise with India less than 62 miles from their disputed border with China.
1 day ago
Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Nebraska, where four people were found dead...
Rebekah Riess, Raja Razek and Jarrod Wardwell, CNN

Arrest in quadruple homicide after victims are found dead in 2 house fires in a small Nebraska town

The suspect in a Nebraska quadruple homicide where the victims were found dead in two separate house fires has been hospitalized with burns over much of his body.
1 day ago
Some of the women who were hanged during the Salem witch trials have been memorialized. (Stephan Sa...
Scottie Andrew, CNN

The last Salem witch has been exonerated, thanks to an eighth-grade teacher and her students

It's never too late to right a historical wrong -- even if that restoration of justice comes nearly 330 years later.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Polar Vortex Could Bring Rare May Snow, Low Temps To US East