A powerful winter storm continues to affect the Great Lakes region and will push an intense cold front through the Finger Lakes this morning.
As of 7 AM, the front was just entering the southwestern most corner of New York State. Rain out ahead of the front was spreading back into the Finger Lakes, with temperatures mostly in the upper 30s and low 40s.
By 9 AM, the front will be entering the western fringes of our region.
By 10 AM, the front will stretch approximately from the Monroe-Wayne county border, south along Canandaigua Lake, southeast to near Corning.
By 11 AM, the front should be along the Wayne-Cayuga county border, along of just east of Cayuga Lake, to the southeast corner of Tioga county.
By Noon, the front will be east of the Finger Lakes region.
As the front passes, rain will turn to a burst of snow, winds will increase and turn to the southwest, and temperatures will rapidly drop.
The combination of the snow and temperatures quickly falling below freezing will lead to very slick roads and hazardous travel conditions. Road crews should be ready to spring into action as soon as the rain changes to snow, which will occur shortly before temperatures fall below freezing.
Likewise, the change from rain to snow will be a key moment for motorists to either complete their travels, if possible, or brace for rapidly changing road conditions.
Snow will continue behind the front, potentially for the remainder of the daytime hours for some areas. This seems most likely over the northeastern quadrant of the region, including Auburn and Syracuse.
Snow amounts this afternoon will vary from an inch or two to locally as much as four or five inches. It will be difficult to tell how much has fallen thanks to the strong southwest winds. Wind gusts of 35-45 mph will be common, and locally higher gusts are expected. This will lead to poor visibility and near white-out conditions at times and drifting snow.
Lastly, temperatures will drop into the 10s by the early and mid afternoon, and by sunset, will range from just below zero in the western Southern Tier to near 10 degrees along the lake shores. With temperatures this cold, rock salt will become ineffective, making it nearly impossible for road crews to keep the roads clear of snow.
If you have to be out and about today and can wrap up your travel plans before the onset of the cold front, do so. Some of the worst road conditions may be as the flash freeze occurs, but only modest improvements can be expected thereafter. Road conditions will gradually worsen over the afternoon as temperatures drop.
Tonight, the snow will end, but the winds will persist. With the cold temperatures, road conditions will not improve. Wind chill values will range from -10 in the warmer northern Finger Lakes, to as low as -30 in portions of the western Southern Tier. This could be especially hazardous for any travelers that find themselves off the road, not to mention of livestock without adequate shelter.
The wind may also produce sporadic power outages, which could lead to a very cold night for some. Be sure to check in on your neighbors if this occurs.
Saturday should not have much in the way of falling snow in the Finger Lakes, but there will still be plenty of blowing and drifting. Only some occasional snow showers are expected, especially over the eastern Finger Lakes.
Heavy lake effect snow will cripple the Buffalo and Watertown areas once again. Significant accumulations off Lake Erie will build into Genesee County and the fringe edges of Wyoming and Monroe counties.
Southwest winds will continue to gust between 35-45 mph. With the cold air locked in place, road conditions may not change much during the day Saturday, either. At best, areas prone to drifting will continue to pose a great challenge to road crews, and even non-drifting areas may still have a bit of snow on the roads.
High temperatures on Saturday will range from the mid 10s near Lake Ontario to the mid single digits in some higher elevations. Most areas will find themselves a couple of degrees on either side of 10 degrees.
The wind will diminish slightly Saturday night with gusts mainly near or just under 30 mph. The wind will remain from the southwest. Nighttime temperatures will hold steady, or many even rise a degree or two by dawn Sunday.
Winds over Lake Erie will turn more westerly on Sunday, increasing the chances for snow throughout the Finger Lakes. Early in the day, the snow will focus across the northern half of the area before sinking south and retreating back towards the lake for the afternoon.
Snow accumulations on Sunday will be limited to a coating to two inches for most of the Finger Lakes, but the southwestern areas, roughly from the southern tip of Canandaigua Lake back towards Lake Erie, will see several inches of snow.
Wind will increase again after sunrise, with gusts up to 35 mph throughout the day. Afternoon highs will range from the mid 20s near Lake Ontario to the mid 10s in the western Southern Tier. Most areas will end up around 20 degrees, which will be warm enough for rock salt to begin working again.
For travel outside of the Finger Lakes on Sunday, heavy lake effect snow will impact I-90 and I-86 in southwestern New York, and along I-81 in northern Oswego and southern Jefferson counties.
Next Week Preview
For the most part, the weather next week looks quiet and benign.
On Monday, the lake effect will be diminishing and mostly outside of the Finger Lakes. Only a few stray flurries are expected.
Tuesday, a quick, weak system will move through with some snow showers. Only minimal accumulations are expected.
Dry conditions will then build in for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Temperatures will start to increase substantially, with 30s Wednesday, 40s Thursday, and possibly a run at 50 degrees by Friday.
Next weekend looks showery and mild, and warm conditions are likely to persist right into the first week of the New Year, making the wintry Christmas weather a distant memory.
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.
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