Expected snowfall, Thursday into Thursday evening. (National Weather Service)
BOSTON (WBZ-AM/AP) - If the bitter cold wasn't enough, much of New England is now bracing for a potential snowstorm.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch beginning late Wednesday and continuing through the day on Thursday for an area stretching from coastal Maine to eastern Connecticut.
"The confidence in the state, at least central and eastern Mass, being hit by a pretty powerful storm on Thursday is growing," MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz Thursday afternoon.
Forecasters say up to a foot of snow could fall in some portions of New England with strong winds and blizzard conditions possible at the height of the storm.
Snow will move over the region Thurs AM lasting into the evening hours. Expect highest totals across RI & E MA where a winter storm watch has been issued. The evening commute on Thur looks to be impacted. This is our first cut on snow totals so anticipate these amts to change. pic.twitter.com/VEZq3IR5v4— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) January 2, 2018
Schwartz said officials were expecting a widespread area of six to twelve inches of snow across the state, with the highest amounts expected in the east.
"Six inches to eight inches through the Worcester County and central Mass areas, but as you go further east, those numbers increase to perhaps up to a foot, right through all of Eastern Massachusetts down to perhaps the Cape Cod Canal," he said.
It's not just the snow officials are worried about--winds are expected to pick up to cause blizzard-like conditions.
"We'll see the winds gusting 35 to 45, 50 mph in the central part of the state, but as you get toward the coast, we may seee 50-60 mph, and perhaps even gusting to 65 or 70 down across the Cape and Islands," Schwartz said.
[Thursday] Strength of the upcoming system will result in strong, damaging wind gusts especially across the Cape and the Islands. This could result in some power outages. There is the potential that forecast wind gusts could be increased if the storm trends closer to SNE. pic.twitter.com/iwozGgcF0F— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) January 2, 2018
It's not yet clear where the snow will turn to rain, but Schwartz said there is potential for heavy storm damage near that line.
"North of that rain-snow line, as we get up into Boston and north and all the way west, the temperature will be cold so the snow will be lighter," he said. "But there will be a rain-snow line somewhere in the southeast, which means there's going to be an area just to the north of that with heavy snow falling on lines and trees. Add the wind to that, and that could be a problem."
He said travel will be significantly impacted, affecting both morning and afternoon rush hours.
A coastal flood watch has also been issued for Thursday.
The storm approaches as the region continues to deal with the dangerous cold snap, with temperature readings again in the teens or single digits on Tuesday.
[Worcester, MA or Fairbanks, AK] Do you want to escape the bitter cold? Not too often Worcester, MA features a 5 day forecast that is colder than Fairbanks, Alaska. Enjoy the "relatively" mild weather @NWSFairbanks. pic.twitter.com/0enIDVtp8Z— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) January 2, 2018
But once the storm is over, Schwartz said, the cold weather isn't going to let up.
"Then we get an even colder blast of air coming in for Friday and Saturday that will likely be considerably colder than we've seen in the past week, which is really cold," he said. "We're looking Friday and Saturday at wind chills that may be 35, 40 below zero, and real temperatures into the below teens."
"Thursday is a clean-up, snowplowing, but we're going to have this massive freeze coming after," he continued. "We have to worry about heating issues, people that are homeless or don't have the safety of a home. Lot of issues with this extreme cold following a heavy snowstorm."
Listen to MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz: