By Cara Hogan
It's been a long wait, but amateur meteorologist Ryan Breton couldn't be happier.
"We had only 18 inches of snow in Atkinson and 8 inches were from the Halloween storm," he said. "Last year, we had 94 inches of snow in Atkinson. This winter has been the polar opposite."
Breton, 17, a senior at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, has had a passion for the weather since he was in fifth grade.
Whenever a storm comes in, he analyzes the data and posts his forecast to his website, atkinsonweather.com. He also has more than 800 Twitter followers. Breton will be attending Pennsylvania State next year for meteorology, but he already is competing with professionals with his weather predictions.
"Anyone has access to the same data and I interpret that and create my own forecast," he said. "On Monday, I predicted 4 to 8 inches from this storm while meteorologists in Boston were only predicting 1 to 3. Right now, I have 5 to 10 inches and I think some spots in Southern New Hampshire could see up to a foot."
Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, agreed with Breton's predictions, predicting 8 to 10 inches.
"It will keep snowing overnight and into tomorrow," she said yesterday. "This is going to be a long, drawn-out storm. There is a winter storm warning until 9 p.m."
That means more than one tricky commute.
"We've been spoiled by a mild winter so far this season, but this storm reminds us that it is still winter and we will be experiencing winter driving conditions for the next few days," said Christopher M. Pope, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
For local public works departments, the storm meant plowing and salting for almost the first time this year. In his 38-year career, Methuen Public Works director Ray DiFiore said he's never experienced a winter like this.
"I've never remembered it being this mild," DiFiore said. "We had one storm prior to Halloween and then we have this."
DiFiore said the city's salt shed is full and his crews were eager to get out on the roads. He sent out six trucks early yesterday afternoon to sand main roads as snow began to accumulate. But if it keeps piling up, DiFiore said he would send out the "full complement" of more than 50 trucks.
John Isensee, director of the Department of Public Works in Lawrence, said they're also happy to see the snow.
"We're been preparing for it all winter long," he said. "We're fully stocked and ready to go. The guys are excited about it and are up and ready. Compared to last winter, we have absolutely nothing to complain about."
Windham highway agent Jack McCartney said preparations for the storm began Monday and continued throughout yesterday.
Mark Lemieux, manager of Market Basket in Londonderry, said more people were staffing the checkout counters in anticipation of increased business.
"We put the shovels and salt out," Lemieux said. "It's a little busier, but not super busy like a blizzard."
Local hardware stores were hoping to move inventory after a winter of meager snow shovel, snowblower and salt sales.
"Right now, I don't think people believe it," said Jack Carson of Benson's Lumber and Hardware in Derry. "The rush isn't on — not yet."
Utilities were preparing for possible power outages.
"Crews are being strategically located in areas of the state which are expected to experience the brunt of the storm," said Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire.
Whatever falls may not last long.
Temperatures should climb into the 40s on Saturday, Curtis said.
"We'll see some rain on Saturday that will help wash the snow away again," she said.
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