ITHACA, N.Y. — No one likes it when a winter storm overperforms weather models and wreaks havoc. Yet, as the last flakes wither in the face of encroaching dry air, that’s pretty much what happened. The issue appears to lie with models underestimating the amount of cold air in place ahead of the complex storm system, meaning that the periods of rain were more likely to be freezing rain, sleet or snow. As a result, icing and snowfalls totals have been higher than originally anticipated.

Courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Generally speaking, most of Tompkins County received between 10-13″ as of late Monday afternoon, with slightly higher amounts possible from the lingering light showers as the storm continues eastward and cold, dry air causes the remaining bands to dissipate. Those traveling eastward will want to keep an eye on travel conditions, as many roads remain difficult to drive on, and bands of moderate to heavy snow continue from about Utica east to Albany and Massachusetts, and down to the New York City area.

With the current newsmaker winding down, it’s time to take a look at the week ahead. On the bright side, there’s nothing like this in the forecast. However, it will be rather unsettled as we get further into the week, with some rain or additional light snow likely heading our way in the coming days.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

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Tonight will offer some respite for folks to dig out from the storm. With the dry air working its way into region from the west, additional accumulations will be limited to an inch or less, mostly before midnight and primarily for communities east of Ithaca. Skies will gradually clear, with partly to mostly skies by sunrise Tuesday morning. Models are calling for low 20s in Ithaca and upper teens in the higher elevations, but don’t be surprised if the temperatures dip a few degrees cooler than that thanks to the cooling effects of deep, fresh snow. With a northwest breeze, it’ll feel very cold, with wind chills in the single digits in most areas.

For Tuesday, high pressure to our southwest builds into the region, with much improved weather conditions if still a little cooler than normal. Temperatures should crack freezing along the lake and in the urban/suburban core, with mid 30s in Ithaca and low 30s in the outlying areas under partly cloudy skies. Clouds will begin to build back in late Tuesday afternoon as a weak clipper-type low quickly approaches. This storm will not have much moisture to tap into, but the cold air present will allow for some light snow showers across Tompkins County in the 12 AM – 6 AM timeframe Wednesday morning. Don’t expect more than a thin coating of snow for your morning commute.

Wednesday is looking a little messy as another system begins to approach from the west. This will be stronger than the clipper, but nowhere near the level of the storm ending now. Ahead of the low, its counterclockwise flow will drive milder air into the region. With temperatures around 40 °F, the precipitation should start as rain early Wednesday afternoon. However, as the cold front swings through Tompkins County Wednesday evening, that rain should change over to snow. The angle of wind will not be conducive for a lake effect enhancement in Tompkins, so new snowfall should be limited to an inch or less Wednesday night with mostly cloudy skies otherwise.

Behind the front, Thursday is looking unpleasant though not hazardous. It will be cloudy with scattered rain and snow showers as highs make it into the upper 30s with a stiff northwest breeze making it feel like the mid 20s. Thursday night will be mostly cloudy with a low in the mid 20s.

Friday is looking one again to be unsettled. With the trough in the jet stream over the Eastern U.S., pretty much every storm that develops along the trough is getting funneled over the Northeast. Friday is looking like another weak pulse of instability, so nothing major is anticipated. But it’s still another unpleasant day, with cloudy skies, snow showers changing over to rain shower by afternoon, and highs in the upper 30s. Friday night will see a changeover back to snow showers as the shortwave moves out, with no accumulations anticipated, and mostly cloudy skies during the AM hours with a low in the low 20s.

Saturday is looking quiet as a ridge manages to build in from the south. Expect mostly sunny skies with highs in the low to mid 30s. Saturday night will be partly cloudy with lows in the low 20s. As the high shifts east Sunday, temperatures will climb as we enter the rear, southerly side of its clockwise flow, with highs in the low to mid 40s under partly cloudy skies. Another storm is likely to develop Sunday night into Monday, but the warm air present should keep this a rain event, with cloudy skies and light to moderate rain and temperatures in the upper 40s.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking ahead into mid-December, it looks to be a largely warm pattern with the most prominent ridge in the jet stream over the Eastern seaboard. Granted, mid to late December is practically the only time of the year the majority of folks want cold air and snow, but at least at this point, the second half of December is looking to be on the warm but wet side, which given climatological normals, that still leaves open the possibility for additional snow events.

Brian Crandall

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