Warmer air and rain raise concerns for ice jams late Thursday

finger lakes weather forecast wednesday february 16 2022 warm rain windy ice jam flood watch
Rapid snowmelt and approximately an inch of rain will cause river ice to break up on Thursday. [Photo by Gwen Moshier]

Ice Jam Flooding

Southerly winds kicked in last night and have temperatures on the rise this morning.

Most areas warmed into the 20s overnight with some 30s already showing up at 7 AM along the Thruway.

Southerly winds will increase this morning with gusts of 30-40 mph throughout the day and into the evening. Temperatures will continue to rise as a result, with highs this afternoon in the low and mid 40s.

Skies will be a mix of filtered sunshine and thicker overcast, but no precipitation is expected today.

The temperature may take a brief dip this evening into the upper 30s and low 40s but will rise again overnight. Most areas should be in the mid 40s by dawn Thursday, with upper 40s along the Thruway and low 50s possible in the Rochester area.

Winds on Thursday will not be quite as strong, but a few gusts over 30 mph will be possible, still from the south. Rain will slowly spread east across the region, coming down heavy at times during the afternoon and evening.

At the same time, temperatures will rise to the upper 40s and low 50s with dewpoints pushing into the mid and upper 40s. All of these factors will contribute to rapid snowmelt.

Rainfall amounts across the Finger Lakes will generally be around an inch, though there is bound to be a high amount of variation due to some heavier downpours.

The snowpack over most of the region contains varying amounts of additional water, ranging from well under an inch in lower elevations, to as much as 2-4 inches in higher terrain.

While these amounts of combined rain and snowmelt are not enough to produce major flooding concerns on their own, the additional problem of thick ice on area rivers changes the prospect.

As river levels rise, the ice will break up. Narrow spots, sharp river bends, and bridges will all be potential areas where this ice will jam and back up. Water then pools behind the jam, leading to rapid rises in water. When the jam breaks, the water is released, and rapid water rises occur downstream.

The highest threat for ice jam flooding will come later Thursday afternoon and into the evening as the rain increases and snowmelt is maximized.

Based on the projected rainfall and modeled snowpack, western New York, outside of the Finger Lakes, has a higher chance for widespread flooding problems. The flooding may be more sporadic here in the Finger Lakes. However, ice jam flooding is extremely unpredictable and changes rapidly.

If you live in a flood-prone area near a river or stream, be ready to act with little to no warning. Water levels can rise rapidly in a matter of minutes.

finger lakes weather 7-day forecast wednesday february 16 2022
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected. Click to enlarge.

Behind the Rain

After midnight Thursday night, the cold front will move through the region. Rain will turn to a brief period of ice and then snow.

The snow should not last long with only minimal accumulations expected. Some roads may be a bit slick early Friday morning, nonetheless.

Much of the snow should end by midday Friday, though a few lake enhanced flurries may linger over the northeastern quadrant of the Finger Lakes. Sunshine will increase during the afternoon with temperatures in the upper 10s and low 20s.

Friday evening temperatures will fall into the single digits and low 10s under clear skies, but then south winds will pick up again and temperatures will rise back to the upper 10s and low 20s by dawn Saturday.

Snow showers will fall throughout Saturday with accumulations around an inch. Highs will range through the 20s to near 30 degrees during the late morning and midday hours. Nighttime temperatures will fall back into the single digits and low 10s as skies clear.

West winds on Saturday will be stiff, with gusts of 40-45 mph commonplace throughout the day.

Sunday and Monday both look quite sunny with southerly winds returning. Low and mid 40s are likely Sunday, while Monday may warm well into the 50s.

Rain looks possible Tuesday as another system moves through. Temperatures will likely retreat to the 20s for a couple of days late next week before returning to near-average temperatures in the 30s.

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finger lakes weather 7-day forecast wednesday february 16 2022
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.

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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.

2 Responses

  1. Jane Russell
    |

    Drew,
    I have a long awaited vacation and flying out of Toronto Friday afternoon. I am now planning on getting to Niagara Falls on way by Thursday night. Do you think this is a good weather plan?
    Thank so much for all you do.
    Jane Russell
    cateringjane@gmail.com

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil
      |

      Depending on the timing of your trip Thursday night, you can expect, at a minimum, periods of rain, some heavy…and possibly rain turning to ice as you get into WNY.