The January thaw is officially over for the Finger Lakes, with an increasingly cold start to February looming.
Rain to Snow Thursday
A weather system is passing through the Great Lakes today. Out ahead of the system, temperatures are starting Thursday well above normal yet again with many areas in the upper 30s and low 40s.
However, colder air is already flooding into the region aloft as the first in a set of two cold fronts presses east across the region. Temperatures will mostly hold steady throughout the day as the colder air counteracts the normal daytime heating cycle.
Later this afternoon, as the second front passes through, temperatures will start to drop towards the mid 30s. Once the sun sets, temperatures will fall back into the low 30s and upper 20s.
Rain and snow showers will move in from the northwest during the late morning hours and will overspread the Finger Lakes for much of the afternoon as the second front passes through.
Higher elevations will start to see snow first, while some of the lower elevations may primarily remain as rain until the evening hours. Accumulations should be limited to a coating to an inch over the higher elevations.
Lake Effect Snow Storm
Behind this weather system, a major lake effect snow storm is expected to bury parts of southwest New York and the Tug Hill under feet of snow.
For most of the Finger Lakes, however, this lake effect event will be minor.
Periods of flurries and a few squalls will be possible from Lake Erie Friday and Saturday as winds primarily come from the west. Several inches of snow could fall across the far western portions of the region, while the higher elevations east of Cayuga Lake receive a couple of inches.
On Sunday, winds will turn towards the northwest, sending flurries and squalls from Lake Ontario into northern and eastern portions of the Finger Lakes. Several more inches could fall, mostly north of a Canandaigua-Penn Yan-Ithaca line. The lake effect will taper to lighter snows for early next week.
Temperatures Drop Below Normal
January is set to close out the month next week with below normal temperatures that will persist into the first week or two of February.
At this time, the incoming air mass does not look brutally cold, but it will definitely be a stark contrast to the extended period of above normal temperatures of early and mid-January.
During this cold spell, look for high temperatures ranging from the upper teens through the 20s. Morning lows will likely be in the single digits and teens.
Of course, there will be day to day variations where it may be warmer or colder.
Snow chances will ultimately depend on wind direction and storm tracks which cannot be resolved this far in advance. There are hints on the models of some active weather during the first full week of February. That is still two weeks away, though, and certainly not something to hang your hat on anytime soon.
Regardless, I will be watching closely and will be sure to let you know what to expect without the hype!