Snow squall this evening ushers in bitter cold, strong winds

finger lakes weather forecast thursday february 2 2023 arctic front snow squall cold wind chills
All of the details you need to know for the snow squall this evening and the bitter cold behind it Friday and Friday Night. [Photo by Gwen Moshier]

Arctic Front

The weather today will be sunny and quiet, with little to no indication of the harsh changes that will occur overnight.

Much of the region is starting off with sunshine this morning, though some lingering clouds exist, especially near Lake Ontario and west-northwest of Lake Erie. Temperatures vary widely, from the mid 20 along and north of I-90, to pockets of mid and low single digits in the southern half of the area.

Sunshine should be plentiful for much of the day, with a slow increase in some clouds late in the afternoon. Southwest winds will be around 10 mph and temperatures will rise into the mid and even upper 30s.

An arctic cold front will cross the region from northwest to southeast this evening. Along the front will be a brief but intense snow squall. The impacts from this will be analogous to a line of thunderstorms, and indeed, there could even be some thundersnow with the squall.

Expect a sudden and intense burst of snow and wind, causing snow-covered roads and limited, if not near zero, visibility. Wind gusts in excess of 30 mph are likely. If on the roads when the squall hits, it is recommended to pull into a parking lot or other safe place and wait it out. That should only take 15-30 minutes, as the squall will be narrow and quick moving.

finger lakes weather map depicting approximate snow squall timing as described in the blog post text
Approximate snow squall timing. Forecast confidence is medium, so some variation in arrival times is expected. Click to enlarge.

The squall should move onshore from Lake Ontario shortly before 9 PM, and then take about 2-3 hours to move through the region. This should put in on schedule to impact areas such as Syracuse, Auburn, Geneva, and Canandaigua during the 9 o’clock hour, Cortland, Ithaca, Penn Yan, and Dansville during the 10 o’clock hour, and areas across the Southern Tier roughly around 11 o’clock.

As the squall moves south, it will weaken somewhat, but most areas will see a brief but high travel impact event.

Behind the squall, lake effect snow will immediately develop with multiple bands south of Lake Ontario. These bands are expected to be transitory, not staying in one location for long. The atmosphere will also become too cold for well formed snowflakes, and strong winds will disrupt band organization.

As such, actual snow accumulations will be on the low side, with many areas across the northern half of the region seeing 2-4 inches, but only localized higher amounts. As usual, to the south, lake effect accumulation will be minimal, except for areas immediately south-southeast of Cayuga Lake, which may get in on the lake effect action with a few inches. The lake effect will continue to wobble about the region and fluctuate in intensity throughout Friday and Friday night.

The greater hazards will be wind related with frequent gusts of 30-40 mph overnight and 35-45 mph during the day on Friday. These will be northwest winds.

First, any snow that falls will easily blow around, causing areas of significant blowing and drifting. With the cold air in place, road salt will be ineffective, so areas prone to blowing and drifting will see continually snowy roads.

Second will be wind chills. By Friday morning, the actual air temperature will be down into the single digits. Little, if any, upward movement is expected during the day Friday, and some areas may even lose a couple more degrees during Friday afternoon.

This will send wind chill values into the -10 to -20 degree range for the daytime hours on Friday. Wind speeds will slowly decrease Friday night, but temperatures will drop as well. Portions of Cortland and Onondaga counties, where Wind Chill Warnings are in effect, could see wind chills reach -30 degrees. Wind Chill Advisories are in place for the remainder of the region, with wind chills as low as -20 degrees expected throughout Friday night.

finger lakes weather medium range snow outlook thursday february 2 2023 see blog text for pertinent information
The chances for snow between Sunday, Feb. 4 and Thursday, Feb. 9 are very low. Click to enlarge.

Quick Turn Around

By early Saturday morning, high pressure will be building into the region. Wind speeds will drop significantly and the wind direction will turn to the south and southwest. This should end most of the lake effect snow, though some snow showers near the shore of Lake Ontario will remain possible.

Morning temperatures will be cold, but the lake effect clouds overnight will prevent it from getting as cold as it would otherwise. Most of the region should end up a couple of degrees on either side of zero, with the best chance for temperatures of -5 or lower coming in the hills of Cortland and Onondaga counties.

Southwest winds will increase to around 10 mph Saturday afternoon, driving warmer air into the region. It will still be on the chilly side though, with afternoon highs in the low and mid 20s. Skies are expected to remain cloudy and a few snow showers will be possible as a result of the influx of a warmer air mass.

Temperatures will initially dip a little Saturday evening, but will rise overall Saturday night. By dawn Sunday, temperatures will range from the mid 20s in Cortland and Tioga counties, to the mid 30s near Rochester. Most areas will be around 30 degrees.

Sunday will be another cloudy day, but quiet with no precipitation expected. Southwest winds will persist, and temperatures will respond by rising into the low and mid 40s.

On Monday, a weak system will drift through the region with a few snow showers. Accumulating snow is unlikely, and most of the snow showers will probably come during the morning hours. The afternoon will remain mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 30s.

finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thu feb 2 | thur, sun and clouds mid 30 | fri, cold blowing snow mid 0 | sat, mostly cloudy a flurry mid 20 | sun, mostly cloudy mid 40 | mon, am snow showers mid 30 | tues, late rain showers mid 40 | wed, sun and clouds upper 40
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected. Click to enlarge.

Temperatures will jump right back into the 40s on Tuesday. Little to no sun is expected, with some late afternoon or evening rain showers possible.

A little sun may finally come out on Wednesday, which would only help temperatures rise higher if that is the case. Another rainy system is expected next Thursday, but temperatures could make a run at 50 degrees before its associated cold front moves through.

Overall, mild temperatures are expected to persist through next weekend and into the middle of February. There may still be some chances for snow mixed in with the warmer temperatures, especially towards next weekend.

More Information:

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finger lakes weather 7-day forecast thu feb 2 | thur, sun and clouds mid 30 | fri, cold blowing snow mid 0 | sat, mostly cloudy a flurry mid 20 | sun, mostly cloudy mid 40 | mon, am snow showers mid 30 | tues, late rain showers mid 40 | wed, sun and clouds upper 40
This graphic represents an average over the entire Finger Lakes region. Localized variations should be expected.

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Follow Meteorologist Drew Montreuil:
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.