Winter Storm Watches issued, but storm details remain highly uncertain

finger lakes weather forecast winter storm watch lake effect snow mixed preciptiation noreaster
Lake effect snow will fall further south than expected today followed by a significant winter storm Thursday into Friday. [Photo by Meteorologist Drew Montreuil]

But First, Lake Effect Snow Update

Confidence is growing in a significant winter weather event for the Finger Lakes Thursday into Friday, but lake effect snow is also ongoing today, Wednesday.

A shift in the wind over Lake Ontario has sent the lake effect snow band to the south earlier than expected this morning. A spray of new flurries and squalls is developing behind the primary band which will continue to move southeast out of the region.

Flurries and squalls will continue from Rochester to Ithaca and in surrounding areas throughout the day, but the heaviest and most widespread lake effect snow will be this morning.

A couple of inches may fall in more persistent snow bands with a general inch or so elsewhere.

Outside of the lake effect, it will be a breezy cold day with partial sunshine.

High temperatures will struggle into the low 30s. With wind gusts over 30 mph, it will feel like the 20s.

An area of high pressure will move in overnight, ending the lake effect. Winds will reverse course and come from the southeast as the major coastal storm begins to take shape.

Difficult Forecast for Significant Storm

finger lakes weather winter storm watch map
Winter Storm Watches are in effect for the eastern half of the Finger Lakes region in anticipation of wintry weather Thursday into Friday. These will be changed either to advisories or warnings as the storm details become clear. [Click the map to enlarge]
Concerning trends in the models are leading to an increased confidence in a moderate to high impact event for the Finger Lakes region Thursday into Friday.

However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty in the details that will ultimately have a large say in what our region expects.

First, here is what I can say with a fair amount of confidence:

A strong coastal storm will develop. Precipitation will be widespread across the Finger Lakes as early as Thursday afternoon and evening. A lull in the precipitation will then be followed by a second round that will continue into at least early Friday morning.

The two main details that remain fuzzy are how the temperatures set up throughout the lower atmosphere and where a band of heavy snow will develop on the backside of the storm Friday.

I will take a great deal of time and effort today to resolve these uncertainties.

At this time, I would expect an inch or two of snow Thursday afternoon and early evening. This will then be followed by a period of light sleet, snow, and freezing drizzle Thursday during the late evening and early overnight. Several hours of moderate to heavy snow will then fall early Friday morning.

In a low-impact scenario, snow totals top out in the 2-4 inch range with some icy spots Thursday night.

In a high-impact scenario, the precipitation stays mostly snow and a heavy band sets up over the central and eastern Finger Lakes Friday morning. Some areas could approach or even exceed a foot of snow with this set up. This scenario is favored by the usually trust-worthy European by varying degrees.

I will hold off on a snow accumulation map this morning with the anticipation of releasing one tonight.

Stay tuned and be wary of weather hype! Watch for tonight’s update.

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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.

4 Responses

  1. Don Moran

    I just wish your forcast would be earlier in the morning !!

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Thanks, Don! It usually takes 1-2 hours to do the forecasting, write the blog post, create any graphics, etc. each morning. I try to get it up as early as I can. I’m hoping to add an evening update in the near future as well to help the early risers know what to expect.

  2. Sharon Warren

    Thank you, Drew, for your honest, well researched forecasts!. I always check your forecast, after hearing the hype, to see what it’s REALLy going to be like. You are very much appreciated!

  3. jen

    Thanks so much for what you do.