A winter storm will impact the Finger Lakes with snow and ice, with the peak intensity coming Monday night into very early Tuesday.
A large surge of cold air across the center of the nation will clash with warmer air over the Gulf of Mexico, giving birth to an area of low pressure over the Gulf tonight. This low will track northeast, coming onshore in Alabama Monday afternoon.
The low will quickly move northeast along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains Monday night, reaching the Pittsburgh area Tuesday morning. At about that time, a new low will take shape along the coast of New Jersey with rapid movement to the northeast.
Out ahead of this low, a much weaker disturbance will take a similar track, staying about 18 hours ahead of the main storm system.
This will result in a two-phase event for the Finger Lakes, though the second phase will be the strongest and most meaningful piece by far.
First, light snow will spread across the Finger Lakes during the morning hours on Monday. The snow may fall steadily during the mid and late morning hours, but should begin to break up during the afternoon.
The snow will probably not completely end with scattered snow showers lingering through the afternoon and into the evening. Steadier snow will move back in from the southwest after 8 PM Monday and will become heavy almost instantly.
Warm air is expected to infiltrate the system aloft, causing sleet to mix in at times Monday night across most of the Finger Lakes. Freezing rain may also be possible in the Southern Tier, where the time it is only snowing may be brief.
By Tuesday morning, dry air wrapping around the low will quickly push into the Finger Lakes, greatly reducing or ending the snow and ice. Accumulations after 8 AM will be minimal.
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The first phase of the storm on Monday will have mostly minor impacts. Accumulations of snow should be under two inches for most of the region, and many major roadways should remain in good condition. Travel may require some extra caution and some extra time, but will not necessarily need to be avoided.
The Monday evening commute will be in good shape with only spotty, light precipitation.
Once the second phase begins, however, travel will quickly become hazardous. Whether by snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a mixture of these precipitation types, road conditions will rapidly deteriorate from southwest to northeast between roughly 8-10 PM Monday.
Heavy precipitation through the night will make for an equally hazardous Tuesday morning commute. But travel conditions will improve Tuesday morning as the precipitation winds down.
Accumulations will be highly dependent on precipitation type. Areas that see more ice than snow will see under four inches. Most areas should see some sleet, which will cut down on snow amounts to varying degrees. A widespread four to eight inches is a good estimate throughout the Finger Lakes.
In the far northwestern corner of the region, where precipitation stays mostly snow, double-digit snow amounts are most likely. However, it seems like it will be hard to get much more than a foot of accumulation.
In making this forecast, I relied heavily on past experience with these types of storm systems. Sleet and freezing rain almost always seem to make it further north than expected, and dry slots often surprise with how quickly they can bring an end to an event, even when they are predicted.
As such, the amounts on the map are lower than I initially expected and lower than what most computer models show. Deviating from the consensus knocks the confidence down a bit, but most of the uncertainty in the forecast comes from trying to resolve the amount of sleet and freezing rain that will mix in.
My next update will come Monday morning between 7-8 AM and will include updates on this storm, as well as the weather from Tuesday afternoon through the rest of the week.
Given that my snow map was made with a heavy reliance on experience and not so much on model data, I do not expect to change my map. However, we will see what the morning brings. Stay tuned.
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