Thursday morning observations
As of 7 AM this morning, the slow moving frontal boundary responsible for the upcoming winter weather event was located directly over the eastern Finger Lakes.
Temperatures west of the front are in the upper 20s, beneath the front it is in the low 30s, and east of the front, mid 30s remain.
This frontal boundary is strengthening as it drifts southeast. Multiple ripples of low pressure are moving along front throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys and all the way to the Gulf of Mexico just off the shore of Texas.
As these waves move along the front through our area, precipitation will increase and intensify.
Overall, the models continue to converge on a solution that is very similar to the snow map I published yesterday. I do not see any need to make any adjustments to the snow map. At this point, focus shifts from forecasting the future of the storm to analyzing what is already happening. My snow map is thus locked in and will not be changing.
Please be sure you have read the post from yesterday morning, which goes through the details from start to finish, before continuing with this update post.
Timing Afternoon Snow Increase
I am expecting snow to increase across much of the region this morning with several hours of steady snow. This should last until the late morning or midday, when the snow rates will drop for a couple of hours. Only light accumulations and minor, if any, travel inconveniences are expected.
The heaviest batch of snow will move in during the afternoon hours. Most models are projecting this to arrive between 3-5 PM. Often time, the models seem to be anywhere from one to three hours too slow. Splitting the difference, this would adjust the increase in intensity to the 1-3 PM time frame.
The increase in snowfall rates will be noticeable and road conditions will start to deteriorate. This will accelerate as the sun begins to set and snowfall rates continue to increase, reaching an inch per hour at times.
Afternoon school dismissal could become sloppy, and the evening commute will be difficult. As much as possible, wrapping up travel plans by noon today would be the safest bet.
Snow vs Sleet
As the precipitation intensifies late today, warm air aloft will try to nose its way back to the north. Chemung and Tioga counties are likely to see precipitation type waiver between snow, sleet, and some occasional freezing rain.
This evening, there may be a brief period where the sleet makes it even further north, possibly reaching Ithaca and Cortland. This should last under an hour if it occurs at all, having little impact on snow amounts.
The more persistent sleet in the eastern Southern Tier will result in the sharp gradient in snowfall amounts that I have been stressing. Snow totals will rapidly drop off from north to south in this area.
Just to the north of the sleet is where the snow amounts will probably be maximized. The closer proximity to the front will produce higher snowfall rates, at times exceeding an inch per hour.
What areas further north lack in snowfall rates, however, they will gain in a fluffier snow that accumulates slightly faster. My snow map has most areas in the upper end of 8-12 inches, but I do expect pockets of over a foot throughout the Finger Lakes.
Friday Wind Down
The most intense snow will wind down overnight. Moderate snow will continue through Friday morning. Even Friday afternoon should see areas of steady but lighter snow.
The last wave of precipitation as a whole should move out during the late afternoon hours, sometime in the 3-6 PM timeframe. Behind this, some limited lake effect will be possible through Friday night.
Road conditions on Friday will be variable in both time and space. As road crews catch up with decreasing snow rates, a gradual improvement should take place. Still, the morning commute may be difficult, so plan on extra time being needed.
For travel plans later in the day, it will likely come down to localized conditions and the tireless, and too often thankless, battle being waged by the road crews.
Erring on the side of staying put keeps you and others safe and keeps the roads clear for the road crews and emergency vehicles. That is not possible for everyone, though, so use prudence and common sense when making judgements.
A special thank you goes out to the road crews that will be working countless hours during this long duration winter storm.
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.
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