Thursday, February 27, 2020

Blizzard warnings in effect as parts of upstate NY brace for as much
as 60 inches of snow

By Brandon Buckingham, AccuWeather Meteorologist
Blizzard warnings were issued on Wednesday for parts of the upper reaches of northern New York state as AccuWeather forecasters are predicting as much as five feet of snow could accumulate from lake-effect snowfall late this week.
Areas south of Buffalo and north of Syracuse are the locations where the National Weather Service (NWS) issued blizzard warnings. It is in these same two areas, where AccuWeather is anticipated the heaviest lake-effect snow as a strengthening storm pulls to the north of the region.
Meanwhile, a slew of other winter weather watches and storm warnings were put in place for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse and the surrounding areas. 

In the wake of a disruptive winter storm that moved across the Great Lakes and interior Northeast at midweek, a cold west to northwest flow across the region will kick the lake-effect snow machine into overdrive into this weekend.
The storm system that will usher in colder air across the entire eastern United States will begin to lift out of the Great Lakes and into Canada during the day on Thursday. On the backside of the storm, strong west-to-northwest winds will begin to fire up the lake-effect snow.
Lake-effect snow activity typically diminishes by late February as the ice coverage across the Great Lakes tends to reach is maximum for the year. Normally, about 40 percent of the lakes are covered by this point of the season, but with a mild winter so far across the region, ice coverage was only a meager 9 percent as of Feb. 24.
With the lakes nearly ice-free, extremely unstable atmospheric conditions can develop as cold air filters over the relatively warm waters.
Lake-effect snow will begin during the day on Thursday across the western lakes. Through the day, places like Marquette and Traverse City, Michigan, can expect to pick up at least a few inches of fresh snow. While there will be accumulating snowfall across Michigan, this will not be a high-end event across the state.
Along with the threat of additional snow, strong winds over the lakes will lead to building waves, causing concern for additional erosion along area beaches.
As the storm in the Northeast continues to depart, lake-effect snow will quickly fire up Thursday afternoon downwind of lakes Erie and Ontario.
AccuWeather meteorologists predict that the wind will flow in such a way that lake-effect bands will be able to track across multiple lakes, resulting in extremely intense snowfall rates. The forecast wind field would suggest this will occur as snow bands initially form over Lake Superior, then track over Lake Huron and eventually over Lake Ontario.
When the wind direction sets up in this manner over the lakes, snowfall rates downwind of Lake Ontario can sometimes exceed 3 inches per hour. Along with the extreme snowfall rates, thundersnow can occur within the snow bands.
These extreme snowfall rates will likely target the Tug Hill Plateau region of New York state, situated east of Lake Ontario and about 80 miles north of Syracuse and 15 miles south of Watertown, from Thursday afternoon into early Saturday morning. Through this time frame, upwards of 5 feet of snow could fall.
The last time the Tug Hill Plateau area picked up more than two feet of lake-effect snow was from an event that occurred Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, 2019. Prior to that snow episode, the region last saw snow amounts on par with what forecasters are predicting for this week more than two years ago during a Christmastime snowfall that spanned Dec. 24-27, 2017. Accumulations as high as 64.7 inches were measured.
Along with the heavy snow, blustery winds could create snow drifts that could bury any car stuck out in the snow. Any unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged during the height of the lake-effect snow event.

Even though the heaviest snow will likely target the Tug Hill Plateau, residents in the Syracuse area will also have their fair share of snowfall into this weekend. Snowfall may be more intermittent across the city, with at least a few inches of snowfall on Thursday. Before snow activity winds down, 6-12 inches could fall between Friday and Saturday.

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