A quick moving, but potent winter storm will track across the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic Sunday night into Monday. At this time, it looks as if the Finger Lakes region will be on the northern edge of the precipitation, which certainly complicates the forecast.
The first complication is the sharp cut off between heavy precipitation and very little precipitation. In terms of just pure precipitation, not snow totals, the Southern Tier counties of New York could see as much as three-times the precipitation that falls in the counties along Lake Ontario. This could translate into a wide range of snow amounts across the region, and it is important to stress that a slight shift in the storm track could greatly increase or decrease the amount of snow a given location sees.
This is exactly what happened earlier this week with the Blizzard of 2015 and the forecast for New York City. The much publicized ‘busted forecast’ was really a matter of the storm shifting east 20-50 miles. The heavy snow everyone now knows New York City did not get fell just east of the city. A similar scenario could occur in our region, so be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
For snow totals, at this time, the highest totals will be further south, with a foot or more possible across the Southern Tier.
Another interesting aspect of this storm will be the temperatures. Colder temperatures generally mean faster accumulating snow. Temperatures, both in the clouds and at the surface, look favorable for a very fluffy, quickly accumulating snow. Even without a direct hit from the storm, it still has the potential to be significant due to snow that will be similar in nature to lake effect.
The cold air that will be in place for this storm- temperatures mostly within a few degrees on either side of 10º with wind chills below 0º- will also give this storm an added danger. As we saw this past week, roadways are much harder to clear in cold temperatures as salt and brine lose their effectiveness. I expect a messy commute Monday morning, even if we only see a couple inches of snow. The bitter cold will also pose a threat to those outside, or stranded in their cars.
Even colder air will move in behind the storm, with lows Tuesday morning well below zero and wind chills possibly approaching the dangerously low levels we experienced last year.
Stay tuned for more updates as this storm approaches and forecast confidence increases.