Cold air returns overnight, triggers lake effect into the weekend

finger lakes weather forecast wednesday february 26 2020 wind cold front rain snow lake effect
Low pressure will track over the Finger Lakes tonight, bringing gusty winds, rain turning to snow, and triggering a long duration lake effect event that will mostly reside outside of the Finger Lakes. [Photo by Gwen Moshier]

Transitioning to Cold

A cold front associated with a strong low pressure system will move through the Finger Lakes overnight tonight.

Out ahead of this low, another band of precipitation moved through the region last night. In its wake, the Finger Lakes is socked in with thick clouds and areas of dense fog.

A few on and off showers may be possible today, but any precipitation that falls should be light.

Temperatures will reach the low 40s for most areas along and south of I-90 with upper 30s to the north. A few places, especially in the Southern Tier, could reach the mid 40s.

Winds will be very light today from the southeast.

Low pressure will then track north tonight, crossing directly over the Finger Lakes region. To the east of the low, winds will turn more southerly and increase, keeping temperatures in the low 40s well into the overnight.

Gusts will top 40 mph for a couple hours, especially in the southeastern Finger Lakes, roughly marked by Seneca Lake in the west and I-90 in the north.

Showers in the evening will turn to a band of heavier precipitation near and after midnight. This rain will turn over to snow from west to east, and from higher elevations to lower elevations. There are still significant differences in the model runs regarding the timing of the change over and subsequent accumulations over higher elevations.

For lower elevations, it seems unlikely that more than an inch or two of snow will accumulate. Many areas will probably only see a light coating.

Higher elevations, especially in southern Cayuga and Cortland counties, may see more snow. Localized amounts on the order of 6 inches are not out of the question, but my feeling is that the amounts will stay lower than that, in the 2-4 inch range.

Wind and Lake Effect

Snow will quickly pull away to the northeast Thursday morning, leaving the Finger Lakes region with cold air and strong winds.

These winds will come from the west-southwest and will gust between 40-50 mph most of the day.

Lake effect snow will develop off both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, but these wind directions are unfavorable for significant snow in the Finger Lakes. There will still be scattered snow showers around, especially in the higher elevations east of Cayuga Lake, but accumulations should be minimal.

The heavy lake effect off Lake Ontario will stay far to the north in the Tug Hill region, where feet of snow will fall. Off Lake Erie, the snow bands will move into Wyoming County, where as much as a foot could fall.

On Friday, the winds will start to turn and the lake effect will pivot southwards. Accumulating snow will be possible along the shore of Lake Ontario into areas north of I-90 in Cayuga and Onondaga county late Friday.

Winds on Friday will continue to be strong, gusting at 35-45 mph.

The lake snows will continue to pivot south with a spray of lake effect snow across the Finger Lakes Saturday into Sunday. This snow will be much lighter than what falls earlier in the lake effect event, but most areas should see a coating of snow this weekend with the most lake effect prone areas seeing several inches.

Temperatures during this time will take a steady slide, with temperatures falling into the 20s on Thursday and topping out in the mid 20s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Quick Recap

Here is a quick summary of what areas can expect snow and when.

Wednesday night-early Thursday: Rain turns to widespread snow. An inch of less in lower elevations, variable amounts in higher elevations.

Thursday-early Friday: Scattered snow showers in the Finger Lakes with minimal accumulation. Heavier snow in Wyoming County. Intense snow far north in the Tug Hill region.

Late Friday: Moderate to heavy snow near the lake shore in Wayne county and north of I-90 in Cayuga and Onondaga county.

Saturday-Sunday: Widespread light snow with localized areas of moderate snow in the snow belts.

I will have a Snow Report this afternoon for the expected snow and wind tonight into early Thursday.

Please Share!

Confusion and misinformation continue to abound with the weather forecast for the remainder of the week. Many in the Finger Lakes still expect a major winter weather event that will unfold over other areas, but not locally.

Please share this information with others to help them better understand what to expect specifically here in the Finger Lakes. You can easily use the buttons below to share on social media or via email.

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.