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

National News

Pedestrians cross the street at the intersection of Washington and 5th in Hoboken, N.J., Thursday, ...

Jeff McMurray, The Associated Press

A New Jersey city that limited street parking hasn’t had a traffic death in 7 years

Street parking was already scarce in Hoboken, New Jersey, when the death of an elderly pedestrian spurred city leaders to remove even more spaces in a bid to end traffic fatalities.

1 hour ago


Matt Schooley

Referee dies after collapsing during high school basketball game

A referee died after collapsing in the closing moments of a Watertown high school basketball game on Friday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association confirmed.

2 hours ago

Nikki Haley speaks with KSL TV during a campaign trip to Utah following a large trail of losses in ...

Gregory Krieg, CNN

Nikki Haley will win DC GOP primary, CNN projects

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will win the Republican presidential primary in Washington, DC, CNN projects, after three days of voting in the party’s only capital polling location – a downtown hotel.

3 hours ago

The Supreme Court may hand down at least one opinion on Monday, according to a new post on the cour...

John Fritze, CNN

Supreme Court may announce at least one opinion Monday as US waits for word on Trump ballot case

The Supreme Court may hand down at least one opinion on Monday, according to a new post on the court’s website. The announcement is certain to drive speculation that the justices are prepared to decide whether former President Donald Trump is eligible to appear on Colorado’s presidential ballot.

7 hours ago

(From left) Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Mandatory Credit:	Niko Tavernise/Wa...

Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer

‘Dune: Part Two’ brings spice power to the box office with $81.5 million debut

Movie theaters were looking for a savior and “Dune: Part Two” is delivering on the promise.

11 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

Eric Bradner and Daniel Strauss, CNN

Trump wins all delegates at stake in Michigan GOP convention amid leadership battle

Former President Donald Trump won all 39 delegates at stake at a Michigan Republican convention Saturday, as officials there sought to move past a leadership battle that has split the state party into rival factions.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

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