Quiet Thursday sets up chance for ice late Friday

finger lakes weather forecast thursday december 31 2020 cloudy freezing rain friday ice weekend weather
A quiet end to 2020 will transition into an icy start to 2021 with freezing rain, sleet, and snow Friday evening. [Photo by Helen Heizyk]

Freezing Rain Set Up

High pressure will build in from the southwest today behind last night’s weather system.

That system now extends from coastal New England to Texas, where a second low will develop today.

The high pressure will track through our region and into northern New England tomorrow as the low lifts north-eastward on a track that will take it directly over the Finger Lakes Saturday morning.

For today, the high pressure will dominate, bringing quiet conditions for the final day of 2020. Clouds will remain plentiful, but some breaks of sun are also likely here and there. Skies will become less cloudy tonight and may even clear completely for a while.

West winds this morning will turn to the northwest this afternoon with speeds under 10 mph. Tonight, winds will go calm briefly as the high passes overhead, then turn to the south by Friday morning.

Temperatures will not move much today, rising from the low 30s this morning to the mid 30s this afternoon. A drop into the 20s is expected this evening, with pockets of teens across the western Southern Tier, where clear skies are most likely.

Clouds will quickly move in Friday morning, but precipitation will not move in until late. Winds aloft will be from the south, bringing warm air in. However, at the surface, winds will be more southeasterly, helping to lock in a layer of cold surface air.

This will set up conditions for freezing rain late Friday afternoon into Friday evening. Roughly the southern half of the region has the best chance for freezing rain, with amounts ranging from a glazing to locally over a quarter-inch.

Further north, the warm air aloft will be less and much of what falls initially may be snow, sleet, or a mix of precipitation types. A couple inches of snow and sleet could accumulate. Travel throughout the region will be tricky late Friday and Friday night.

At about 5 PM, the first precipitation will enter the region from the southwest. By 7 PM, the precipitation should stretch from about Batavia to Penn Yan to Ithaca to Binghamton. All areas should see precipitation begin before 9 PM.

Precipitation will become more showery after midnight and should turn to rain for everyone before 3 AM. Rain showers will continue into Saturday morning as temperatures push toward 40 degrees. Travel Saturday morning will gradually improve, but some slick, untreated roads may exist into the mid-morning hours for areas that see the most icing.

finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thursday december 31 2020
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected. Click to enlarge.

Looking Ahead

Saturday afternoon will remain cloudy. Winds will swing around to the northwest as the low departs to our east, allowing cooler air to settle in. Temperatures will mostly be in the low and mid 30s Saturday afternoon.

Another low pressure system will develop on Sunday, this time along the Mid-Atlantic coast. This will team up with some energy moving through the Great Lakes to bring precipitation back into the area.

Yet again, some mixed precipitation will be possible, though conditions for freezing rain are not as ideal as they will be on Friday. Snow will be most common through the morning, but rain will overtake most areas for the afternoon. Higher elevations may hold on to the snow through the afternoon, resulting in a light, slushy accumulation.

A few more rain and snow showers will be possible on Monday and Tuesday as impulses of energy move through. Temperatures will continue to generally be in the 30s.

There will be some chances for sunshine Wednesday and Thursday next week as high pressure passes through. If skies clear, nighttime temperatures will drop, but daytime highs are only expected to increase, with 40s possible by Thursday.

Little change in the pattern is expected for the following week either, with temperatures generally remaining in the 30s.

More Information:

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finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thursday december 31 2020This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.

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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 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.