A prolonged storm system continues to work its way through Central New York. The storm has thus far dumped 6"-10" across the Holland Patent Central School District, making for an interesting morning commute on Tuesday. This storm will transition into "Part 3" Tuesday night (with Part 1 being the past weekend's rain, Part 2 being Tuesday's heavy and wet snow, and Part 3 being lake effect snow). While some areas in Central New York will pick up double digit accumulation, on top of what has already fallen, the Holland Patent area looks like it will miss out on the heaviest lake effect. Below is my snowfall forecast from 10 PM Tuesday through 10 PM Wednesday. Again, the snowfall below does not include the snow that has already fallen. The area shaded in white is predicted to receive 2"-4", while the light blue area is predicted to receive 4"-8", and the dark blue area is predicted to receive 8"-12".
A word about Tuesday
The Holland Patent area ended up receiving more snow than was predicted, and morning commute conditions were much worse than I had thought they would be the night before. There are two factors that contributed to this. The first was the temperature was a bit cooler than what I had anticipated. This was caused by one of the low pressure centers moving east on Monday night a faster than what the models had projected. Because low pressures spin in a counter-clockwise direction, the further east it is, the colder the air is that the low pressure pulls over through the area. This storm system is actually composed of two areas of low pressure, one located over Cape Cod (the one that moved a bit further east than what was predicted) and one located 50 miles to the north of Lake Huron. Normally, storms that impact Central New York are only composed of one area of low pressure. These are easier to forecast, as there are simply less variables to account for. In this case, having the two low pressure systems interact with one another complicated wind directions, and the movement of snow bands. This is the cause of the second factor that made the morning commute so snowy. At 6 AM, radar had indicated a dry slot (area in which no snow was falling) was moving toward the Holland Patent area, and as a result, it appeared that the snow would stop around 8 AM. The dry slot, pictured below, had been moving north to south for approximately 50 miles from it's formation in Northern New York. There was no indication that it would stop. Then, just as the dry slot reached Remsen, it stopped advancing, and a line of heavy snow developed right across the Holland Patent area. The dry slot stalled out for several hours, and snow did not lighten up around Holland Patent until around noon. The image to the right shows the movement of the dry slot, while the image to the left shows just how close the heavy snow that developed over Holland Patent was to the dry slot.
Looking back upon the radar loops, it appears that this stop in the dry slot was caused by a sudden change in wind speed from the low pressure system located off of Cape Cod, which gathered strength as it moved over open waters. This increase in wind pushed back against the Canadian low pressure system, which was the driving force behind the dry slot's southerly movement. Unable to move, the clouds continued to build over the same location, producing a band of heavier snowfall that just so happened to be located over the Holland Patent Central School District.
After all of this snow, it would appear as though Winter is here to stay. Not quite. A shift in the jet stream this weekend will bring warmer air and rain to the Central New York region. Highs on Sunday will be close to 50ºF. This will melt the majority, if not all, of the snow we picked up with this system, and the potential for minor creek flooding will have to be monitored as we approach the weekend. The "warmth" will be short-lived however, as highs will return to the upper 20s and mid 30s by the start of next week.
For those of us looking to catch a glimpse of sunshine, the outlook is rather bleak. A storm system that has been responsible for the rain on this past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday will continue to crawl east over the next several days. The movement of this system is extremely slow, as it has dislodged itself from the jet stream, and no longer has a substantial wind to force it along. Most storm systems that impact our area ride the jet stream, and thus exit the area within a day. The blue and purple in the image below represent the location of the jet stream for Tuesday and Wednesday, while the circular lines over the western Great Lakes show the center of the storm we are dealing with.
Rain turns to Snow
Up until Monday night, this storm system has brought rain to the Holland Patent area. On Monday night, as the storm begins to pull in colder air from Canada, precipitation will change from rain to snow. This transition will begin in the higher elevations of the Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau, then will gradually occur in the lower elevations of Central New York. Temperatures will not drop much below the freezing mark for the Holland Patent area, making it difficult for snow to stick to the roadways. It will be a different story in the Adirondacks, where colder temperatures will allow for significantly higher snowfall accumulations and snowier roadways. Below is my snowfall forecast for the area. The forecast is from 12 AM Tuesday through 12 AM Thursday. The white shade represents 2"-4" of snow, the light blue shade is 4"-8", the dark blue shade is 8"-12", the red area is 12"-24", and the yellow area is 24"-36"+.
Why are they getting so much more snow??
Although there are differences in snow accumulation across Upstate New York with any winter storm, it is seldom that we see differences this large. While Holland Patent is only expected to pick up 2"-4" of snow, portions of Essex County will see over 3 feet of snow! This stark difference can be attributed to the snow to liquid ratio. Just like it sounds, this refers to the amount of water in the snow. In other words, if one were to melt down 10" of snow and was left with 1" of liquid, the snow liquid ratio would be 10:1. That number, 10:1, is the average snow liquid ratio, but the figure varies tremendously based on many atmospheric factors, with temperature being the primary one. The colder the temperature, the more the water expands when it freezes into a snowflake. Bigger snowflakes obviously take up a larger area, in essence creating more snow. On the flip side, if temperatures are warmer, that same amount of water expands less when it forms a snowflake, taking up less area, and leading to less snow. Less snow with the same amount of liquid leads to a lower snow liquid ratio, and vice versa. In the case of this storm, areas in the red and yellow will be a few degrees cooler and subsequently will have a much larger snow liquid ratio, and therefore will receive more snow, even though we will be working with the same amounts of liquid as the areas in red and yellow.
Our delay and snow day chances
Because we won't see a large amount of snow, I do not believe we have a great chance for a delay and snow day. It is also important to note, once again, that the snowfall forecast is stretched out over 2 DAYS. None of the models suggest a period of particularly heavy snow, but rather the accumulations will be slow and steady. That said, it will be snowing on Tuesday morning, and there will still be some slushy patches along untreated roadways. While I don't believe we will have a delay, it is not out of the question that we will. The latest delay and snow day predictions can be found here.
It's now certain that we're going to see our first significant snow storm of the season. A strong nor'easter is tracking up the coast, and looks to impact the Holland Patent area for Thursday night and early Friday morning. Snow should overspread the region from north to south Thursday evening. The cold temperatures we've seen these past few days will allow the snow to have no problem sticking to roads that have not been salted. Take your time if you plan on traveling Thursday night. The heaviest of the snow looks to fall between 2 AM and 5 AM*. There are still some questions over how long the snow will continue into Friday morning. Some models shut the snow off by 6 AM, and others keep the flakes flying through the mid-morning. Up to this point, I have been predicting a delay, but some of the newest data makes, yes, a closing more likely. Ultimately, I think we'll still see a delay, but the chance of a closing is now not out of the question. The latest snow day/delay predictions can be found by clicking here.
*see "The Wild Cards" section
By noon Friday, I predict the Holland Patent region will see between 6" and 10" of snowfall. Because temperatures will be close to freezing, the snow that falls will be wet and heavy, making travel dangerous in the morning. Areas south and east of Utica might see slightly less snow, as they have a possibility of sleet, which cuts down on totals.
The Wild Cards
There are two wild cards that could play a significant role in determining our final snowfall total. The first of which is sleet. Some weather models have the sleet-snow line right on our doorstep, while others keep it comfortably to the south of our area. The image to the left is the GFS model for 6 AM. The sleet, represented by the pink, is just to our south (Holland Patent is just to the right of the "C" in the middle of the map, created by the county borders). On the other hand, the NAM model for 6 AM keeps the sleet closer to Albany.
My personal feeling is that the sleet will stay just to our south. If it does reach us, our total will be closer to 6", but travel will be more treacherous.
The other wild card to watch will be the development of what is called the "deformation zone". In a nor'easter, wind is coming from two directions: the south and the northeast. A low pressure system is responsible for the southerly wind, while high pressure in Canada is responsible for the northeast winds. In the middle of the two systems, the wind strength is even. As a result, the winds essentially cancel each other out, and the precipitation stalls out. The area under this narrow zone gets an enhanced accumulation, as the snow remains over the area for an extended period of time. Some models are indicating that this will form in the area. Because a slight fluctuation in the wind can change the position of the deformation zone, it is very hard to pinpoint the exact location one. The area under this zone will likely see heavy snow into the mid-morning, while everywhere in Central New York should clear out after 7 AM or so. Below, is a model projection for a deformation zone tomorrow at 9 AM. The heavy snow is the darker blue. The image on the right is the snowfall projection of that model. Note the much higher amounts in the deformation zone.
I think the deformation zone will set up just to the east of the district, but it would not take much at all to push it over our way.
Here we go Again
We're in the midst of a very active pattern here in Central New York. Monday's snow storm dropped 2"-4" of heavy wet snow across the Holland Patent Central School District, prompting a 2-hour delay. A very similar setup looks to take place on Friday. Models are in very good agreement that a low pressure will track from the Ohio Valley to Long Island. This puts the Holland Patent area on the cold side of the storm, allowing for more accumulating snow. Temperatures will likely be a bit cooler than Monday's storm, as a strong high pressure system north of Maine will funnel cold surface air into the Holland Patent region as Friday's storm moves over the area. Models have temperatures safely below the freezing, but there is still the outside chance of sleet mixing in. This is because warmer air aloft (higher in the atmosphere, where clouds form) will try to move over the colder surface air. Although I don't think the warm air will make it quite this far north, if it does, we will likely see sleet, as precipitation will melt as it falls through the warm layer, before re-freezing as it gets closer to the ground. The models are still in disagreement with the timing of the storm. Some have the heaviest snow falling between 12 AM and 3 AM, Friday, with others projecting the heaviest snow to fall between 3 AM and 6 AM.
What the Data is Saying
It is important to remember that we are still several days away from the event, and there will likely be some fluctuations in the models. With that being said, here is the current picture. First, we have the total snowfall forecast for this event. As always, the number in the gray bar represents the snowfall amount for the Village of Holland Patent. The model on the right is almost certainly an outlier, nothing else seems to suggest we will get anywhere near 16". Furthermore, models were a bit too bullish with projected totals for yesterday's storm, as we received about 2" less than the model consensus. With all of that being said, my early prediction is for 4"-8" of snow for Holland Patent from 12 AM Friday through 12 PM Friday.
Temperatures at 6 AM, as noted above, are projected to be below freezing by all of the models.
The Delay Forecast
As always, the latest snow day forecast for the next three days can be found here. My initial prediction is for a 60% chance of a delay on Friday. It goes without saying that the percentages will change between Tuesday and Thursday evening. The largest factor that will influence the snow day forecast is the timing of the heaviest snow. If models trend earlier, and the heaviest snow of the storm falls before 5 AM, our chances of a delay will decrease. On the other hand, if the heaviest part of the storm is delayed, and persists into the commute time, our chances of a delay will increase. Obviously, road conditions are by far the primary concern when calling a delay or snow day. It should be noted, however, that Friday is picture retake day at the high school. Having a delay would throw off the retake schedule, and create an additional hassle for the powers that be. That factor, though minor in comparison to the impact of the storm itself, does tilt the scales an additional 5-10% toward a full day in my forecast. You won't catch the Snow Day Calculator accounting (no pun intended) for such matters.
Between Tuesday and Friday, below-average temperatures and lake effect snow will impact the Central New York area. The lake effect snow looks to stay well to the southwest of the Holland Patent area, impacting locations in and around Syracuse. Some of you may have seen on the homepage of this site that we are under a Winter Weather Advisory. The National Weather Service, which issues the advisories and warnings, can only issue for an entire (or large part) of a county. Indeed, the southwestern part of Oneida County (our county-unless you live in the eastern half of Trenton Falls) will see several inches of accumulating lake effect snow Tuesday night and Wednesday. Travel will likely be hazardous out that way. It is because of this that the advisory was issued, and it includes us because we are still in the same county, even though the Holland Patent area will not see much of an impact at all from the lake effect.
We will, however, not escape the impact of the cold. The core of the cold air will be in place Thursday morning. The maps below show us the range of temperatures that we can expect to wake up to on Thursday.
The average low for this time of year is approximately 30ºF, with highs in the mid 40s. Highs will not even crack the freezing mark on Wednesday or Thursday.
As the most recent weather model data pours in, it appears that the "colder scenario" described in the last post is playing out. The center of the low pressure system has moved further to the east, allowing for colder air to remain over the Holland Patent area. It is important to note that "coldER" does not mean that this will be an all-snow event. Temperatures will be close to freezing during the pre-dawn hours, and will eventually rise above freezing as the morning goes on, before the storm moves out of the area by noon on Tuesday. It is because of this that our chances for a closing remain very low. While the timing hasn't changed (the heaviest precipitation still looks to fall between 3 AM and 6 AM), there remains a fair degree of uncertainty as to when snow will turn to rain. Models indicate this changeover happening anywhere from 6 AM to 9 AM. This makes all the difference in terms of a delay. If the changeover occurs around 6 AM, road conditions will not warrant a delay, however, if the snow is able to hang on until 9 AM, road conditions (especially the back roads that are not treated with salt) will likely be messy enough to invoke a delay.
Click here to view my latest odds for a delay on Tuesday.
What the Data is Saying
Below are several of the latest model projections for the total snowfall of this system. The number in the gray bar is the model's projection for the village of Holland Patent. Amounts range from 3" to 6".
Below are the latest model projections for temperatures at 6AM. Again, the number in the gray bar is the model's projection for the village of Holland Patent. Models are in good agreement that the temperature will be right around the freezing mark by 6 AM.
Finally, below are the model projections for the timing of this storm. I chose the two models that have historically been the most accurate with these type of events. For laptop or desktop viewers, the top row is the NAM Model, which is forecasting a snowier scenario (5") and the bottom row is the GFS Model, which only projects 3" for the Holland Patent area. The left column is what each model is projecting for 3 AM, the center column is for 6 AM, and the right column is for 9 AM. For mobile viewers, the top 3 images are the NAM model, the first at 3 AM, the second at 6 AM, and the third at 9 AM. The fourth image is the GFS Model at 3 AM, the fifth image is the GFS at 6 AM, and the sixth is the GFS at 9 AM. Blue is snow, green is rain, and pink is a mix. The darker the color, the heavier the model projects the precipitation to be. For reference, Holland Patent is just to left of the "C" made by the county borderline in the middle of each image.
It appears that we have our first chance for a delay this school year. On Monday night and Tuesday, a fast-moving low pressure system will track from the Ohio Valley to New England. This storm will bring the possibility for accumulating snow. At this point, it only looks like we'll pick up a few inches at best, and temperatures will be close enough to freezing for rain to potentially mix in. The timing, however, is cause for concern, as the heaviest of the snow, as of now, looks to fall between 3AM and 9AM. If future model runs trend cooler, our chance of a delay will increase. If the storm trends warmer, our chances for a delay will decrease. In this case, rain would likely mix in, and any snow that does fall would have a hard time sticking.
The image above is the current model projection for 6AM on Tuesday. We are currently in a mostly-snow scenario, but the rain is not far away, with the rain-snow line hovering just to the west of Albany. The current model projection gives us about 3" of snow, with the higher elevations of the Adirondacks receiving 6"-12" of snow.
**More updates to come.**