If the snow storm that socked the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire on the day after the New Year were typical of this winter season, it would go down as one of the most severe in recent memory.
Meteorologists rated the northeaster that roared through the region that day as the coldest snow storm in nearly a decade. Most communities received more than a foot of snow to go with single digit temperatures and a sub-zero windchill that made shoveling sidewalks and scraping car windshields dangerous work. Just a couple of bone-chilling minutes outside without gloves could lead to frostbite.
It was part of a historic cold wave which struck Canada and the United States and extended as far south as Central Florida and into the northeastern section of Mexico. The Jan. 2 snowfall totals, coupled with the extreme cold, have been the climax of a winter which has already exceeded normal totals during the early months for many area communities.
Another winter storm began hitting southern New England yesterday afternoon with the National Weather Service saying Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island will bear the brunt of the storm, with 10 to 14 inches of snow. Gov. Deval Patrick urged drivers to stay off the roads until 5 a.m. today.
Midway through February, the region is on pace for a snowier than average winter.
For instance, data compiled by the National Weather Service and the National Climatic Data Center show that Newburyport has already exceeded the monthly total averages for December, January and February over the years 1981-2011. The 52.7 inches of snowfall recorded as of last week was close to reaching the seasonal average of 55.5 inches over those two decades.
The Feb. 5 storm, which dropped about 10 or more inches of snow on most communities throughout the region, pushed the Boston area past its normal annual snowfall total of 43.8 inches, with four to six weeks of prime snow season left.