Severe thunderstorms Thursday possible but highly uncertain

finger lakes weather forecast severe thunderstorms thursday may 23 2019
UPDATED 10am: Numerous severe thunderstorms are expected today with damaging winds, hail, and possibly a couple tornadoes. The greatest threat, which could approach Level 4 Serious status, is over the eastern Finger Lakes and Central New York.

Forecast Updated!

The forecast has been updated to account for a poor handling of the set up by the models this morning and an increasing chance for severe weather across the region. The graphics currently listed on this page are up to date, but the text remains unchanged from this morning.

Please move over to the Live Blog for the latest updates and analysis. » GO TO THE LIVE BLOG


The information below is, generally speaking, outdated. Still, there is relevant information on the complexity of today’s severe weather set up, as well as a look at the weekend’s weather.

Scattered Severe Storms

A few severe thunderstorms are likely this afternoon across the eastern Finger Lakes, but a more significant event is highly uncertain.

Thankfully, there are a few factors in play that have decreased the overall threat as it appeared at this time yesterday.

Wind fields aloft, while still plenty strong, are not quite as primed for tornadic supercells. Also, the instability, or amount of fuel available for thunderstorm development, is expected to be lower.

Part of this will be due to the timing of the thunderstorms. A line of storms over Ohio and Michigan early this morning will race east. This line is expected to dissipate mostly but will be the triggering mechanism for storms early this afternoon.

finger lakes weather forecast severe thunderstorm map thursday may 23 2019
UPDATED 10 am severe risk map.

For western areas, this forcing should arrive early enough that little to no new development will occur. Thunderstorms should first start to develop over the Southern Tier, then spread north through the eastern Finger Lakes.

How quickly they develop and how quickly they can become severe is one of the biggest questions of the day.

The uncertainty is high enough that I made a set of graphics with an elevated risk area, started to write this post, then went back and readjusted the graphics to remove the elevated risk and push the line between minimal and low risk further east.

In my experience, when there are significant questions on whether an event will reach its potential or not, usually it falls short. Therefore, I have gone with the more conservative approach today. This again goes to show how complex severe thunderstorm forecasting can be, even a mere 6 hours before the event unfolds.

Severe Thunderstorm Details

I am expecting the highest potential for severe weather between noon and 4 pm. There will be some additional potential for thunderstorms with a minimal severe risk thereafter, which is why the graphics have a * after the 4 PM timing.

Despite the uncertainty in severe thunderstorms, any thunderstorms that do become severe will have a tornado threat. Areas shaded in yellow have the best shot for a brief tornado or two. Should a more significant severe event unfold, the chances for tornadoes would increase. Therefore, there is an orange * under the elevated tornado risk in the overview graphic above.

Damaging winds will also be dependent on the overall severe threat. Currently, I think the wind potential is limited to a few scattered areas with a couple downed trees and power lines. A more significant threat would include more concentrated areas of tree damage, such as what occurred in the Syracuse area this past Sunday.

A few reports of severe hail over 1” in diameter will be possible, but I think the potential for hail larger than 1.5” is low. Flooding should not be a significant concern with rapid storm movement.

After 4 PM, a few isolated thunderstorms will be possible. There will be a small chance for some minor tree damage or small hail. A brief tornado could spin up during this time but is unlikely to occur. These storms will be most possible for areas east of Seneca Lake.

Actions to Take

I will set up a live blogging center later this morning in the 10-11 AM time frame. I will continue live blogging through the main threat during the mid afternoon and into the later afternoon with the second, minimal threat.

Should a more significant event begin to unfold, that is where the information, with updated graphics, will be posted. Be sure to check back for that live blog and leave it open on your device as you go about your day. A chime tones every time I post an update, and it is very convenient to check in periodically to see the absolute latest information and analysis.

Most areas will probably not see severe weather today but keep an eye to the sky and have an action plan in place, especially if you are outdoors. Remember that lightning can strike well outside of a thunderstorm, so be sure to head indoors at the first rumble and remain there until 30 minutes after the last rumble.

Memorial Day Weekend Weather

Behind today’s weather system, Friday will start cloudy. Sunshine will return for the afternoon. Temperatures will reach the low 60s for most areas.

Saturday will bring warm, humid air back into the region with highs in the mid and upper 70s. A few scattered showers and thunderstorms will be possible throughout the day. During the evening, a cold front will drop southeast, bringing a better chance for thunderstorms.

There will be some severe threat with these storms, but at this time, it does not look like a big event. There is plenty of time for that to change, so continue to monitor the forecast.

A couple of showers and thunderstorms may pop up Sunday afternoon as well. Temperatures may reach the mid and upper 70s.

Monday looks to have the best chance for dry weather with a mix of sun and clouds and highs in the low 70s.

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Meteorologist Drew Montreuil
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 three young boys and also run a goat milk soap business, Ye Olde Goat Cart. When not working or playing with the boys, he is probably out for a run through the countryside.