Calm Before the Storm
A strong high pressure system remains in place over the region today, but the first signs of the impending winter weather will start to show up.
Full snow/ice forecast, including maps and charts, now available: https://flxweather.com/2022/02/02/thursday-friday-snow-and-ice-comprehensive-details
Thin clouds from the Great Lakes will build in today as a frontal boundary takes shape to our west. These clouds should not block too much of the sunshine today, though late in the day, the clouds will become thicker.
Accompanying the sunshine today will be increasing south-southeast winds. By the afternoon, winds speeds will be 10-15 mph, and tonight, higher elevations will gist to 35 mph.
Temperatures will warm into the 30s today with the sun and wind. The Rochester area may see the upper 30s, while higher elevations will stick to the low 30s. Most of the area will settle in the mid 30s.
Clouds will continue to thicken overnight and Wednesday will be overcast and grey. However, during the daytime hours Wednesday, precipitation is not expected in the Finger Lakes. South winds will remain in place, though will not be as strong as Tuesday evening.
The continued supply of milder air should result in highs in the upper 30s and low 40s. A few areas along and north of the Thruway could sneak into the mid 40s.
Temperatures will only fall to the mid and upper 30s Wednesday evening. As precipitation slides into the region, it should do so mainly as rain showers.
Cooler air will work in overnight as the front settles overhead. Rain will turn to the snow across roughly the northwestern half of the region, while to the southeast, rain and freezing rain will be possible. This precipitation should mostly be light, but the Thursday morning commute may still be slick.
There are still significant uncertainties in precipitation type and amounts. These may never be fully resolved, so the focus needs to be more on the potential impacts and being prepared for multiple scenarios.
The two main sources of uncertainty are the position of the front as it stalls out over the region, and the depth of the cold air at the surface near and ahead of the front. A front is not a defined line, as they are shown on a map. They are three-dimensional gradients in temperature, with the strongest gradients not lining up on the north-south-east-west plains at different levels of elevation in the atmosphere.
Perfectly pinpointing the precipitation types in both time and space is impossible.
As such, the location tags I am using in this post (such as northwestern/southeastern) are purposefully vague but are meant to give a general understanding of the storm evolution. If you are unsure if you fall in the northwestern or southeastern Finger Lakes, assume all scenarios are equally possible.
Areas seeing snow early Thursday morning should expect it to remain snow throughout the day. However, if it is not snowing early Thursday, that is where things get tricky.
Precipitation will gradually increase in coverage and intensity Thursday morning and into the afternoon. Some of the heaviest precipitation should come Thursday evening before a very slow tapering off Thursday night and the first half of Friday.
With the front overhead, there will be enough cold air for snow to fall throughout Thursday and Thursday night for the northwestern half of the region. Significant accumulations, which could approach a foot, look likely for areas such as Rochester, Dansville, Penn Yan, Geneva, Auburn, and Syracuse.
Sleet and freezing rain are likely where it is not snowing. Thankfully, the models are trending away from freezing rain and more towards sleet. The best chance for significant freezing rain may be limited to Tioga County, but if trends hold, sleet will become more likely.
Precipitation should change over to snow from northwest to southeast late Thursday and Thursday night. For areas that do not change over fully before the heaviest precipitation arrives, snow amounts will rapidly drop off compared to areas just to the northwest. But significant travel impacts are still likely due to the ice. Lighter snow will continue into early Friday before eventually ending.
Whether snow, ice, or a mixture, travel late Thursday will be dangerous, and Friday morning will still be very messy. If possible, avoiding travel at any time Thursday and before noon Friday would be the safest recommendation.
Much of the snow that falls will likely be a wetter, heavier snow, especially in areas close to the snow-ice line.
I will attempt to have some graphics later today after the morning model data becomes available to help visualize the impacts from this storm, but it is extremely difficult to incorporate uncertainty in these graphics. Stay tuned.
Behind the Storm
Friday evening, lake effect snow will develop southeast of Lake Ontario. This snow should mainly be light, but a few locations could see a couple of fluffy inches.
Winds will not be overly strong behind the storm, with gusts remaining around 20 mph from the northwest. Temperatures on Friday will stick to the teens, with only a small rise from the morning to the afternoon.
Lake effect clouds and flurries will continue into Saturday morning, keeping many areas around 10 degrees. Areas away from the lake effect will drop into the low and mid single digits.
Saturday will have increasing sunshine as the lake effect withers away. Highs will only be in the mid teens. Nighttime temperatures will be around zero, with a few cold pockets in the Southern Tier possibly getting well below zero.
Sunday will have clouds and some sun as temperatures start to inch back up. Look for highs in the mid 20s. Monday will be warmer yet with temperatures nosing back into the 30s.
A few flurries may drift through on Tuesday, holding temperatures a few degrees cooler than Monday. Wednesday will be back into the mid 30s, though, and Thursday could make a run at 40.
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.
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