Up to 2 ft. of lake-effect snow ahead, timing outlined
Thursday, December 7, 2017, 11:44 - A familiar visitor has returned to the Great Lakes region. Heavy lake-effect snow bands are currently streaming off of all five Great Lakes, thanks to a blast of Arctic air spreads across the Great Lakes and Northeast, causing localized whiteouts and expected to dump more than two feet of snow in some areas. This marks one of several high impact lake-effect snow events expected in the Great Lakes through mid-December. Here's what you need to know.
"A deep upper-level low over James Bay has multiple spokes of energy rotating around the upper low that will travel across the Great Lakes through Thursday evening," says the National Weather Service in a statement. A strong lobe of energy associated with this system is passing through the region through Thursday afternoon, and that's helping to focus the already-intense bands of snow over parts of Upstate New York, along with the Lake Erie shoreline in Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, and much of Upper and Lower Michigan. According to the NWS, radar estimates showed the snow falling at up to 1.5 inches per hour Thursday morning south of Buffalo.
Watch the video that leads this article for forecast play-by-play.
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Watch below: Lake-effect snow timing
The strong cold air advection is expected to result in periods of heavy, lake-effect snow (6 inches or more per 24 hours) across the favored snowbelt areas downwind of the Great Lakes into next week.
"Surface temperatures on Lakes Erie and Ontario are currently at or above 5 degrees C, while 850-hpa temperatures are forecast to fall below -15 degrees C," explains the Climate Prediction Center. "The large temperature difference between the lake surface and low-level air promotes a favorable environment for enhanced lake-effect snow."
Watch below: Temperature pattern
Heaviest snow will mainly be west-east oriented, and WSW to ENE oriented for lakes Erie and Ontario through Thursday night. Most of western Lower Michigan will see some streamers off of Lake Michigan through the day on Thursday, but the heaviest accumulations will be reserved for the north, where bands will 'double up' from Lake Superior.
Below is a closer look at the storm track and timing.
Lake-effect snow warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service until Friday morning for areas immediately east and southeast of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. While the Buffalo metro area will experience periods of snow at times throughout this time period, the heaviest bands are expected to remain aligned south of the city.
The NWS cautions drivers to expect "difficult travel conditions" as heavy bands of snow will cause localized white-outs throughout the day. Travelers with plans that take them along I-81 east of Lake Ontario or along I-90 south of Lake Erie should expect very difficult driving conditions, and prepare or adjust their plans accordingly.
Snowfall rates of up to 2 inches per hour will continue on and off throughout the day off of Lakes Erie and Ontario, with the peak rates easing somewhat late this afternoon, after the strong chunk of upper-level energy passes east of the lakes.
The main upper-level trough of low pressure begins to shift through the Upper Great Lakes overnight on Thursday, shifting wind directions and easing lake-effect for much of Michigan - with the important exception of Traverse City and north, where the new winds out of the southwest will still be aligned with Lake Michigan enough to let locally-heavy snowfall continue through much of the day on Friday. This trough moves overhead for the Lower Great Lakes by Friday morning, again shifting winds to be out of the southwest, and pushing snow bands slightly north. This will be the best chance for a round of heavy snow into the Buffalo metro, although most model indications show the bands weakening before they bring much snow into the city itself. Snow lingers the longest for Watertown and the Tug Hill Plateau, before tapering off late Friday afternoon.
Snow amounts will be significant, with 1 to 1.5 feet of snow possible south of the Buffalo area by Friday afternoon. Locally, some areas could receive close to 2 feet, particularly in southern Erie County and southwest Wyoming County. Also, some areas in Jefferson County east of Lake Ontario could receive as much as 1 to 1.5 foot of snow, with higher amounts - as much as 3 feet - across the Tug Hill Plateau.
MORE SNOW FOR EAST COAST WEEKEND INTO NEXT WEEK
A fast moving system tracking offshore of the East Coast could produce light snow and a rain/snow mix from eastern North Carolina to eastern New England Friday through Saturday. While the bulk of the precipitation with this system is expected to stay offshore, the northwest periphery of this system will likely track close enough to the coast to graze parts of the region with a light accumulation of snowfall.
Watch below: Storm track
The first opportunity for wintry precipitation could occur in the Piedmont region in North Carolina Friday evening as a surge or cold air interacts with moisture in the area. However, warm ground temperatures and light precipitation rates in this area should limit snow accumulations to nothing more than a dusting.
As moisture streams further north late Friday evening, temperatures may be cold enough to support light snow in the Delmarva Peninsula, coastal New Jersey, and even a period of snow will be possible into New York City during this time. By Saturday, temperatures should reach the upper 30s and low 40s in this region allowing for a transition to a mix of rain and snow showers, though precipitation intensity will continue to be light so do not expect any heavy accumulations.
This system will also bring light snow into Long Island, Rhode Island, and southeast Massachusetts late Friday into Saturday, with some flakes likely in Boston on Friday night.
Click play to watch below: Snowfall forecast
While there is still uncertainly in exactly how close this system will track in relation to the coast, there will be a possibility of light snowfall accumulation in Cape Cod and the Islands, eastern Long Island, southeast New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, and possibly as far south as the Piedmont region in North Carolina. However, since details continue to remain uncertain at this time, the meteorology team at The Weather Network recommends to continue to check back for further updates as we continue to update the forecast.
La Niña features prominently in our 2017 - 2018 winter forecast. See what the next three months have in store for you.
WATCH BELOW: New system to bring additional rain and snow into the weekend
With files from Weather Network meteorologists Ross Giarratana and Caroline Floyd