ITHACA, N.Y. — Heads up – if you need to stock up on rock salt, or dig the snow brush or snow shovel out of the shed or garage, do it tomorrow. Accumulating snows will likely begin late Thursday afternoon.
As snowfalls go, this is not going to be a major accumulation. However, as the first sizable snowfall of the season, and that gives it an outsized impact, as either a first-time experience for newcomers unfamiliar with winter driving, or certain locals who just seem to forget how to handle slick roads.
In the city of Ithaca and close to the lakeshore, expect about 2″ of snow, with 3-4″ more likely in the hills surrounding the city. This is a very topographically dependent event. The snow will fall through a layer of air warm enough to melt it into a cold rain, but if you’re as a higher elevation like the hills of Newfield, Enfield or Dryden, there’s not as much time between the cloud base and ground level for the air to melt the snow, and the evaporative cooling effects of falling precipitation will allow the rain to change over to snow sooner than it would in valley locations. If the air cools off more quickly, accumulations could be a widespread 4-6″; if it stays warmer longer, than accumulations will be no more than inch for most areas.
Temperatures will hover around 40 F late Thursday morning, but as the low pressure of the storm passed east of Ithaca, the winds will turn to the northwest and colder air will begin to work its way into Tompkins County. Periods of moderate rain, persisting through the late morning and afternoon Thursday, will change over to snow by 2-3 PM at higher elevations, and by 4-5 PM in Ithaca and other valley areas, with widespread light to moderate snow through about 8 PM before drier air begins to move in. Lighter, more isolated snow showers persist through the overnight and into Friday. Brief freezing rain/ice accretion is possible on the hills west of Ithaca Thursday afternoon.
Most folks know how to handle driving in snow by virtue of the fact that this is Upstate New York and you get used to it. However, be sure to use caution on the roads, given that the drivers around you may not be as used to the winters up here. Give yourself a little extra time for your evening commute, especially if it involves traveling through higher elevations or on less-used roads that may not be plowed as frequently.
The weekend will be sunnier to start if still cold, with moderating temperatures by Sunday. However, a second shot of cold and potentially more snow is on its way for next week; an update on that will be in the next Sunday evening weather report.