Dangerous Winter Storm Tuesday & Wednesday for the Finger Lakes and Beyond

finger lakes weather forecast snow amount blizzard winter storm march 14 2017 march 15
A dangerous winter storm will impact the Finger Lakes Tuesday and Wednesday.

A very dangerous weather event is likely, with very heavy snow Tuesday and near blizzard conditions Wednesday across the Finger Lakes and surround areas.

A Serious Storm

The Finger Lakes and surrounding regions are poised for one of the biggest winter storms in recent memory as a powerful nor’easter is set to slam the region with heavy snow Tuesday and strong winds on Wednesday. Travel conditions throughout both days will be extremely hazardous and dangerous.

This storm looks to be a step above most of the major winter weather events of the past 10-20 years. While not in the same class as the epic Blizzard of 1993 or other historic events throughout our region’s history, this will likely be a storm to remember.

Please continue to read the entire post for all of the details. Forecast confidence is still not as high as I would like. Please also remember that I do not hype the weather. I am genuinely concerned about the impacts this event will have on those that do not take it seriously.

Storm Timeline and Hazards

9pm Monday to 3 am Tuesday

Slight Impact: Light snow begins to move in

3 am Tuesday to 3am Wednesday

Extreme Impact: Very heavy snow likely.

3 am to 8 pm Wednesday

High Impact: Light snow. Strong winds. Near Blizzard conditions

After 8 pm Wednesday

Slight Impact: Snow showers. Winds diminish.

Snow will start to overspread the Finger Lakes overnight tonight. Some snow showers may be possible as early as the late afternoon, but the steady, accumulating snow will not start until after midnight for most areas.

Heavy snow will likely be falling by the Tuesday morning commute. Very heavy snow will persist through most of Tuesday and Tuesday evening. Snowfall rates over an inch an hour will be likely. By Tuesday evening, some places will already be over a foot.

Winds Tuesday will be gusty, but not too strong. Still, the snow will be light and fluffy, which will make it easy to blow around. Low visibilities and drifting will be moderate problems.

The wind will increase on Wednesday, even as the falling snow tapers off to generally light snow. Wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph will become commonplace. This will create near blizzard conditions with white outs and significant drifting of the snow.

Travel conditions will be very dangerous both Tuesday and Wednesday as a result.

Conditions will start to improve Wednesday evening as snow rates continue to drop and the wind begins to lessen. Gusts over 30 mph will be possible on Thursday as well, however, continuing the threat for poor travel conditions.

This will be a widespread storm, with high impacts all across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Snow Accumulations

Expected snow accumulations have increased across most of the Finger Lakes.

This is due primarily to a continued westward trend in the European model and its ensemble members.

Snow accumulation map for the Finger Lakes and Central New York. Click to enlarge.

Some of the heaviest precipitation from the storm will fall just east of the region, but the eastern Finger Lakes in particular are under the gun for some very heavy snow rates.

The snow will likely accumulate very quickly as snow crystal growth is maximized. Some thundersnow is not out of the question given how powerful the storm looks.

Most of the region should easily see a foot of snow. Snow totals could approach two feet near Lake Ontario and across the northern and eastern Finger Lakes. Over two feet is a very real possibility for areas near and east of I-81.

The overall confidence for these snow totals is medium. There are still some indications that lighter but still significant snow amounts are possible. There are also indications that even higher snow amounts are possible. This forecast considers both possibilities and lays in a middle of the road, most likely scenario.

As with any significant snow event, accumulations will vary greatly over short distances due to very localized heavy snow bands. Geography and elevation also play a role.

The snow will be difficult to measure to do the wind. Snow drifts could easily exceed 3-4 feet.

Thankfully, the lake effect snow Thursday and Friday behind the system looks fairly minimal at this point.

Final Notes

This is a dangerous system. Even if snow totals top out around “only” a foot, there will still be significant impacts. The potential for two to three feet of snow is real. This is not hype.

Having a plan in place for worst case scenarios is recommended. Food, water, and medicine for 2 or 3 days, a warm to safely stay warm if the power fails, and a survival kit and plan if you must travel are highly encouraged. If possible, plan to not travel on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Please continue to spread real weather forecasts and not hype. Your support in my mission of bringing honest, accessible, and accurate weather to the Finger Lakes is greatly appreciated!

My next update will come between 5:30 and 6 pm tonight. In the meantime, feel free to message or email me with your questions.

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Follow Meteorologist Drew Montreuil:
Meteorologist Drew Montreuil has been forecasting the weather in the Finger Lakes region since 2006 and has degrees in meteorology from SUNY Oswego (B.S. with Honors) and Cornell (M.S.). Drew and his wife have four young boys. When not working or playing with the boys, he is probably out for a run through the countryside.

13 Responses

  1. Russ Charif

    Thanks for the detailed locally-specific info.

    It would be helpful if these pages prominently displayed a “Last updated” date and time. I see the date, but when serious weather is developing like this it would be helpful to know if the post is 1 hour old, 16 hours, or whatever.


    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Thank you for the suggestion, Russ! I will see about adding that in.

  2. Steve

    Is Wednesday going to worse than Tuesday to drive?

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      I think travel both days will be very poor. Tuesday may be worse in areas that are less prone to drifting and blowing.

  3. Susan

    This is looking a bit beyond the storm, but the IHS Code Red robotics team has a weekend competition in ROC – departing before dawn Thursday morning, returning Saturday evening. Will it be safe to travel by then? Any idea how the lake effect might look or is it too early to tell?

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      The lake effect should not be too much of an issue, thankfully. There is another system to watch Friday night and early Saturday that could bring a few more inches of snow though.

      • Susan

        Good to know! Thank you!!

  4. Jackie

    I’m a little concerned but very prepared. What does Canandaigua & Shortsville look like for Tuesday AM through the early evening ?

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Very prepared should mean perfectly safe. Canadaigua will see periods of heavy snow throughout the day.

  5. maria walter

    what are the chances of Marcellus NY getting a foot or more from this storm? Just south and west of syracuse…If yes, will it last through Wednesday

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Very high chances. Yes it will last through Wednesday

  6. Timothy Perry

    This is great work-serious, balanced, and taking into account the vagueries of the region. Bravo!