ITHACA, N.Y. — The calendar may say it’s spring, but hold on to that snow shovel – a late-season winter storm is expected to release several inches of wet snow on parts of Tompkins County Thursday night.

A storm developing over the Western Great Lakes will track eastward into the region Thursday, with a cold rain likely by mid-afternoon. As temperatures cool down during the overnight hours, temperatures will drop to near or slightly below freezing, allowing a transition to a heavy, wet snow, especially in the higher elevations north and east of Ithaca, where the storm’s precipitation shield will be most intense.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

This is a very elevation-dependent storm, and the colder temperatures become, the more likely a given location will see wet, quickly-accumulating snowfall. The city of Ithaca is expected to see about 4-6″, but model ranges run from less than an inch (a cold, heavy rain event) to nearly a foot of snow. It is possible that Downtown Ithaca could see an inch of snow or less, while the adjacent neighborhoods on the hills see several inches of snow. As noted by the National Weather Service Binghamton office, “A few degrees colder or warmer will make a huge difference”.

The storm will merge with a second low pressure area developing off the Carolina coast and tracking along the eastern seaboard, which will slowly move through Cape Cod and into interior New England and Atlantic Canada. This will wrap cold air around its counterclockwise flow, and with oceanic moisture wrapped around its core, the powerful March storm will create more snow throughout the area Friday night into Saturday morning, which may be heavy at times, and with winds gusting over 40 MPH. The snow is expected to taper off as the storm moves away Saturday morning after daybreak.

A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Cortland County, which is more at risk for a heavy snow event due to its generally higher elevations as well as closer proximity to the merging storm systems and their associated snowfall (median 8″, range 3-14″ for the city of Cortland). A Winter Storm Watch or Winter Storm Warning has yet to be issued for Tompkins County, though that may be updated as models get a better grasp of the atmosphere’s vertical thermal profiles and the storm tracks.

In other words, prepare for a significant, heavy wet snow fall Thursday night and Friday night. Snow may continue throughout the day Friday, or briefly change back over to rain during the day, depending on how warm it gets during the daylight hours. Those in elevated areas and normally cooler spots will be at greater risk for a high-accumulation heavy snow event, and will want to pay very close attention to any changes in the forecast. As with any heavy snow, use caution when traveling, as the transition from rain to snow may be very sudden, and be mindful of downed tree limbs and power outages as a result of the snow and gusty winds.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.