For the second week in a row, the middle day of the week is coming in calm and quiet ahead of much more active weather for the end of the week.
High pressure has built in overhead and has finally dislodged the clouds associated with last week’s system and the subsequent lake effect it generated. The mostly clear skies have temperatures in the 10s and low 20s this morning.
Winds will be nearly calm throughout the day, but the sunshine will help temperatures warm into the mid 30s. Most of the day will be dominated by blue sky, but late this afternoon, thin clouds will start to build in from the west.
The clouds will increase and thicken tonight as the first signal of the active weather to come. The second sign will be a southeast wind that will develop this evening. The wind will remain light with speeds under 10 mph throughout the night.
Before the clouds and wind kick in, some areas could slip back into the 10s this evening. This is most likely over the southeastern quadrant of the Finger Lakes. Otherwise, the clouds and winds will hold temperatures steady or even cause a slight rise overnight. Most areas should therefore start Thursday in the low and mid 20s.
Precipitation on Thursday will first move into the southeastern Finger Lakes from Pennsylvania. A late morning or early afternoon is the most likely arrival time, but there is still some variation in the models.
Like last week, I am hedging on the earlier side of things due to a model bias that delays the precipitation too long by 1-3 hours. Last week’s precipitation arrived 1 to 2 hours ahead of the models and right in my forecast window since I accounted for this.
The precipitation in the southeastern Finger Lakes will probably start as snow, especially over higher elevations. Lower elevations, especially right along lakeshores, may start out as rain from the start. As precipitation spreads north and westward during the afternoon, many areas will see rain from the get-go. A few pockets of freezing rain may be possible for a brief period, and areas that see snow early on will gradually transition to rain. Snow accumulations will be minimal and short-lived.
Travel conditions on Thursday should generally be decent. Most major routes should stay mainly wet, except for a little initial snow as the precipitation first starts in the southeastern Finger Lakes. As usual, rural roads will stay sloppy longer but should improve through the afternoon as temperatures climb into the mid and upper 30s.
As rain becomes the only precipitation type, it will continue on and off through the evening and overnight.
Lots of Wind, Sharp Cold Front
The wind will start to become notable Thursday evening, mostly for areas east of Seneca Lake. Still coming in from the southeast, nighttime gusts over 40 mph are possible. Some of the hilltops in southern Cayuga, northern Cortland, and southern Onondaga counties could gust to 50 mph.
Temperatures in these areas will continue to rise, reaching the mid 40s overnight. These temperatures should make it as far west as about Keuka Lake, with mid and upper 30s to the west.
There will be a lull in the precipitation early Friday morning just ahead of the cold front. Winds will turn southerly and drop but will pick up again quickly from the southwest as the front moves through during the mid to late morning.
Another band of precipitation will accompany the cold front, with most of the precipitation along and behind the front. With the precipitation lagging, most of it should fall as snow. Steady, and at times heavy snow will fall for 1-3 hours before tapering to flurries or ending. During that time, accumulations will range from a coating to an inch or two.
Temperatures will drop quickly during the late morning and afternoon, falling all the way to the 10s by the late afternoon. The combination of rapidly falling temperatures and the burst of snow will produce a period of slick travel conditions. Preemptive road treatment will be key to improving road conditions, as once the front moves through, road crews will be playing catch up with the snow and flash freeze conditions. I will be working to nail down this timing more in tomorrow morning’s blog post.
Winds on Friday will be blustery throughout the region, but strongest west of Keuka Lake. Gusts of 45-55 mph will be possible in those areas, with 35-45 mph gusts to the east. These winds will remain in place through Friday evening before decreasing to a widespread 30-40 mph range overnight.
Snow showers will continue to be possible through Friday night, but the most intense lake effect snow bands will remain west and well north of the region in the Buffalo and Watertown areas. The snow will focus on these areas through Saturday, with just occasional snow showers in the Finger Lakes.
Southwest winds will continue to gust over 30 mph through Saturday, leading to areas of blowing snow. Temperatures will start out in the single digits and only reach the mid 10s for highs. This will keep wind chills below zero throughout the day on Saturday.
On Sunday, Christmas Day, winds will turn more westerly. Snows off Lake Erie will spread into the Finger Lakes with some areas seeing several inches. It will remain blustery, so blowing and drifting snow will continue to be a concern. Temperatures Sunday will remain cold with highs near 20 degrees.
The snow and wind will taper off on Monday, though a few flurries and some localized drifting snow will be possible. Morning temperatures will range through the single digits and 10s with afternoon highs just getting into the low 20s.
Temperatures will continue to moderate slowly for the middle of next week with some periods of light snow possible. Later in the week, temperatures will fall a bit again with highs in the 20s.
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.
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