SEE THIS POST FOR UPDATED INFORMATION: https://flxweather.com/2016/08/16/finger-lakes-severe-weather-updates-tuesday-aug-16-2016/
While some uncertainties remain, it appears as though an elevated risk for severe thunderstorms is possible this evening for parts of the Finger Lakes.
Low and Elevated Risk Areas
Severe weather appears likely late this afternoon and evening across the Finger Lakes. There are still some uncertainties to work out, which I will discuss in the next section.
All thunderstorms today will be capable of producing frequent, dangerous lightning and torrential downpours. The flooding risk is minimal though, as storms will be quick movers.
In an attempt to hone in on the areas of greatest risk, there are three particular zones on the map I wish to point out.
Western Finger Lakes
The western Finger Lakes has been placed in the Low severe risk category (yellow shading). Thunderstorms will likely develop in these areas during the late afternoon hours just ahead of a cold front. There are three factors at play to keep this area at a lower risk level.
First, the amount of energy in the atmosphere (called instability) may not be quite as high in these areas. Second, thunderstorms will be in their infancy as they develop over this region, resulting in a lower likelihood of widespread severe conditions. Lastly, the tornado threat is lower here, with more uniform wind direction through the lower levels of the atmosphere.
I therefore expect a few severe thunderstorm warnings in this area with a couple of damaging wind reports.
Central & Eastern Finger Lakes and Central New York
The areas in orange have been given the Elevated risk level. This is typically the highest threat I assign to an area unless there is a high confidence of a significant, life threatening event.
Thunderstorms will race east into these areas during the late afternoon and evening hours. Some added instability, time for storms to mature, and some extra spin in the atmosphere may combine to result in a higher tornado risk.
This does not necessarily mean that a tornado will touch down for sure, but I would not be surprised to see a couple of rotating cells that prompt tornado warnings. Damaging winds will still be the primary threat, however, with numerous reports of wind damage expected.
Some of this severe weather could be significant as well, meaning warnings should be taken seriously.
The Mohawk Valley is a local hot spot for tornado activity. The alignment and size of the valley aids in adding some extra spin to the atmosphere, and tornadoes occur here at a higher rate than most surrounding areas.
This area will already have higher amounts of atmospheric spin due to a closer proximity to the warm front. Combined with the local tornado climatology, and I would not be surprised to see a tornado touch down somewhere in this area.
Predicting tornado touchdowns in exact locations is impossible, but the more meteorologists can hone in on the risk area, the better. That is what I am trying to accomplish here given the forecast and my local experience and expertise.
Uncertainties in Storm Development
As I mentioned earlier, there are still some uncertainties in this event. Given the *potential* seriousness of the event, I have opted on the side of everything coming together so that awareness can be raised and preparations made. However, it is not a certainty that these threats are fully realized.
The degree to which the atmosphere is able to heat up and destabilize this afternoon remains a major question. Conditions will likely remain cloudy and even showery as late as the early afternoon. This could reduce the amount of energy available for storms to develop.
Furthermore, the main triggers for thunderstorm development will be the warm and cold fronts, which will be well north and west of the Elevated risk zone. If storms do not achieve their initial development in Western New York, it may be difficult for storms to develop on their own further east.
Any storms that are able to develop in an energy rich environment will be capable of the risks outlined above. That initial development, however, is the big question.
Plan of Action
Now is the time to prepare a plan of action for late this afternoon and evening, keeping in mind the uncertainties that are present.
The first thing to do is spread the word about the *potential* AND the uncertainties. Please do NOT say things like “We are going to get a tornado tonight!”, but rather say “There is a good chance for bad storms tonight, but it still isn’t totally clear cut. Keep an eye out.” This is the difference between instilling fear and actually helping inform others.
Next, continue to monitor the forecast. Below is my Twitter feed, which I will be posting updates to throughout the morning and early afternoon. I use Twitter because it is easy to send a quick update than blogging and you do not have to have a Twitter account to see the information.
As conditions evolve this afternoon, I will likely make a new blog post as a single severe weather hub where you can get all of the information. If conditions get intense enough, and technology cooperates, I may even try out some live video feeds.
Most importantly, take time to figure out a plan of action in case a severe storm moves into your neighborhood. Remember that severe thunderstorms can spawn tornadoes with little to no notice. In July 2014, a tornado killed 4 people in Madison county when it developed and dissipated in a matter of mere minutes. There was no tornado warning with the storm because it happened too fast. Please take warnings seriously!
Again, check back for updates throughout the day.
Tweets by @FLX_Weather