After warm Thursday, attention turns to wintry mix Saturday

finger lakes weather forecast thursday december 16 2021 warm mild cold front wintry mix saturday
While temperatures will push 60 degrees today, a wintry mix of precipitation will make travel tricky by Saturday. [Photo by Gwen Moshier]

End of Mild Weather

A strong storm system lifting northeast into central Canada is pulling warm air into our region this morning.

Temperatures have risen significantly overnight, with many areas starting near or above 50 degrees.

Some thick clouds are lingering over the eastern half of the area, but the clouds are thinner to the west. Mixed skies will be the case for much of the day, with periods of thicker clouds alternating with thin clouds and some breaks of full-on sunshine.

South-southwest winds will continue to be blustery, especially over higher elevations and for areas west of I-390. Most of the region will see gusts in the 25-35 mph range.

To our southwest, the air is not quite as warm as what is overhead now. Nonetheless, temperatures will rise several more degrees as the daytime heating process kicks in. Most of the region will see upper 50s and low 60s today, with some higher elevations sticking closer to 55 degrees.

Precipitation will be almost unheard of during the daytime hours. A few late showers will be possible, especially in the western half of the region. Showers will increase slightly this evening. Most areas will see some rain, but it will be brief and light.

Temperatures will hold in the 50s this evening but will drop quickly behind a cold front around midnight. By Friday morning, temperatures will be down into the mid 30s.

Sunshine will be abundant early on Friday, but thin clouds will build in through the afternoon. Winds will be from the west and not as strong with top gusts a very normal 15-25 mph.

Afternoon highs will still be noticeably above average, topping out mostly in the mid 40s. As usual, higher elevations will be a touch cooler.

finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thursday december 16 2021
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected. Click to enlarge.

Winter Returns

An area of low pressure will track east across Pennsylvania on Saturday. Cold air at the surface will be overridden by warmer air aloft, setting us up for a wintry mix of precipitation.

At its onset early Saturday, possibly before dawn, the precipitation should be mostly snow as it spreads from southwest to northeast. The snow will quickly intensify, with snowfall rates approaching an inch per hour.

The best chance for an icy mix from the start will be across the Southern Tier, or roughly an east-west line extending from near the southern tips of Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga lakes. Sleet, which is pellets of ice, will be likely in these areas.

As the morning goes on, the warmer air will nose its way northward. Snow will turn to sleet, sleet will turn to freezing rain, and freezing rain will turn to plain rain. Much of the area should see scattered rain showers by the afternoon as surface temperatures rise to the mid 30s.

The numerical amounts of each type of precipitation will vary greatly by location, but ultimately are not as important as the impacts. Whether snow or ice, travel Saturday morning will be tricky and extra time on the roads will be necessary.

By the afternoon, road conditions will slowly improve. Caution will still be necessary, though, especially on rural or untreated roads.

Maximum snow amounts will be near and north of I-90, where 2-4 inches will be possible. Sleet accumulations further south could approach an inch, while ice accretion from freezing rain should remain under a tenth of an inch.

The winds Saturday will not be an issue with top gusts mostly under 25 mph.

Precipitation will taper off Saturday evening with a few streamers of light lake effect snow southeast of Lake Ontario developing by Sunday morning. Snow showers will linger, but should mostly dissipate during the afternoon hours.

Northwest winds Sunday will be a bit on the blustery side with a few gusts reaching 30 mph, mostly across the eastern half of the region. It will be chilly, with highs ranging from the mid 20s in higher elevations to around 30 degrees near the lakeshores.

The weather will then settle into a pattern of sunshine, thin clouds, and temperatures in the mid 30s. This should last at least into the middle of next week.

The weather will become more unsettled as we draw closer to Christmas, but the details are too uncertain to speculate much about at this time. Generally, though, it looks as though cooler air is here to stay.

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finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thursday december 16 2021
This 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. When not working or playing with the boys, he is probably out for a run through the countryside.