Weather Through Saturday
While most of the weather today will quiet and on the mild side, a busy stretch of meaningful winter weather is on our doorstep.
There is a small area of snow moving through the southeastern Finger Lakes this morning. Within this area of mainly light snow is a narrow band of heavier snow. This will reduce visibility and put down a quick inch or so as it moves through Tompkins, Cortland, Chemung, and Tioga counties early this morning.
The rest of the day will be characterized by mostly cloudy skies with a few occasional glimpses of sunshine. South and southwest winds will be gentle at around 5 mph but will still give temperatures a boost. Look for highs this afternoon in the low and mid 40s for most areas.
Overnight tonight, an arctic cold front will drop south into our region. Snow will become widespread but will fall mostly after midnight. Much of the snow will be light, but a few heavier bands cannot be ruled out. An inch or less of accumulation is all that is expected by Friday morning.
Temperatures will spend much of the night around 30 degrees but will fall to the mid 20s by dawn. The temperature will continue to fall during the day Friday, ending up in the mid teens by sunset.
North winds will increase to 10-15 mph by midday Friday with gusts of 25-30 mph. With the falling temperatures, the wind will produce subzero wind chills by the late afternoon. A few lake effect flurries will be possible.
The wind will shift a bit to the northeast Friday night, pushing the lake effect clouds to the western Finger Lakes. East of about Cayuga Lake, the sky may turn mostly clear Friday night, allowing temperatures to freefall.
Saturday morning lows could approach -15 in the I-81 corridor. Most areas near and east of Cayuga Lake should drop below zero, as will the western Southern Tier. The areas that see lake effect clouds and a few flurries overnight will be close to but mostly above zero.
Winds will not be quite as strong but still may gust over 20 mph at times. With these cold temperatures Saturday morning, wind chills east of Cayuga Lake will be colder than -20 degrees, possibly going as low as -35 degrees in the I-81 corridor. Wind chills of -10 to -20 degrees will continue in these throughout the day as temperatures struggle to get above zero.
Wind Chill Warnings may be needed for these areas, and a Wind Chill Watch has already been issued for Onondaga County.
To the west of Cayuga Lake, wind chills will be in the -10 to -15 degree range early in the morning, and 0 to -10 during the daytime hours. High temperatures should be at or above 5 degrees above zero. Lake effect snow will mostly be limited to Wayne and Monroe counties, where steady light snow will fall.
Addressing the Monday Storm Potential
Clearing skies and calm winds Saturday night will lead to another cold night, even though the core of the arctic airmass will be on its way out. Without the wind driving the cold like on Friday night, topography will become a large determining factor in temperature.
Near lake areas should mostly stay above zero, while many non-lake locations will be near or just below zero. There will be colder pockets, though, and these areas could fall as low as -10 degrees.
Sunshine will be abundant on Sunday and will team up with a southeasterly breeze to remove the cold. High temperatures will be close to the climatological average, with upper 20s and near 30 degrees for most areas.
Clouds will increase late in the day as a strong winter storm makes its way northward.
There is no doubt at this point that a meaningful winter weather system will impact a large area Monday, including the Finger Lakes. However, it is too early to be issuing snow amounts, and I especially caution strongly against buying into predictions of a foot or more of snow.
The models continue to trend further and further west with the low pressure center. Most models are already introducing sleet into the projections over our area, which is significant because the models underestimate the warm air almost every single time in these scenarios.
Given the trends and how the models typically behave, I could easily see a scenario where snow accumulations are a far cry from the hype that is flying now.
The energy that will trigger this system is still out over the Pacific Ocean, which means there is limited observational data for the models to use in their projections. As this energy comes onshore today, the models will benefit from the increase in data. The models that run overnight tonight will be the first with the energy fully onshore.
As such, the forecast should begin to come into focus tomorrow and Saturday. At this point, simply being aware of the likelihood for some sort of wintry weather Monday is sufficient.
Be sure to stick with Finger Lakes Weather for honest reporting and accurate forecasts, and please spread the word about my services to combat weather hype and premature forecasts that will need numerous significant and confusing revisions.
Behind this system, some scattered lake effect snow is likely on Tuesday. Some accumulations southeast of Lake Ontario are possible.
Another system will swing in for Wednesday. Most of what falls should be snow, but enough warm air may sneak in to turn some to rain Wednesday afternoon. Additional lake effect is likely behind this system as well to close out next week. Friday and Saturday next week may again be on the cold side, but probably not as extreme as the next two days.
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.
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