ITHACA, N.Y. — If you haven’t already grabbed the rock salt and snow shovels from the shed or garage, you’ll want to do so ASAP. As a cold front enters the region, accumulating snows will be seen across much of Tompkins County late tonight into Monday morning. On a brighter note, Election Day will have no meteorological hiccups, and it looks like a late fall heat wave is on tap for the second half of the week.

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We are getting into that time of the year where the local weather gets depressing interesting. With Daylight Savings Time over, the sun now sets before 5 PM until January 16th (for those keeping in track, DST starts again on March 14th, 2021). Temperatures had recovered modestly this weekend after a cold front late last week, but a second cold front, associated with a fairly broad and strong area of Canadian low pressure passing to the north, currently pushing through the Southern Tier, with cloudy skies, scattered rain showers, and falling temperatures. Winds have been gusty all day, and winds will be shifting from the south to the northwest as cold Canadian air blows in behind the front.

There are two key things to note here. One is that the winds will be getting quite strong overnight as the low strengthens to the north and the pressure gradient steepens. The second is that those winds will be passing over Lake Ontario, which is much warmer than the air directly above it. Strong winds and cold air will take a lot of heat energy from the lake water and use that to drive convective development – in other words, it’s the recipe for an early-season lake-effect event.

In lake effect, the direction of the wind across the water, or fetch, is the key detail for where the snow will be. In tonight’s case, the winds will be WNW. In contrast to the big snows, which are almost due westerly across the lake because they can take in the maximum amount of heat energy, tonight they’ll be passing over the short axis of the lake, which will limit accumulations. However, with winds sustained at 20 MPH and gusting up to 35 MPH, this light to moderate snowfall will be blowing around, which will reduce visibility and make travel difficult, particularly before sunrise (4-6 AM) when the snow bands are expected to be at their most intense.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

The bands will extend quite a ways inland southeast of the lake thanks to the strong winds, which will power the bands further into the Southern Tier. If you are east or north of Ithaca, you will see more snow tonight and tomorrow morning. Expect 3-6″ by late tomorrow morning in those locations, with isolated high accumulations possible. In Ithaca itself, and towns away from the maximum fetch to the south and west of Ithaca, snowfall amounts will be less, 1-3″ in most areas. It will mostly fall between the hours of 1 AM and 8 AM. As previously noted, the gusty 30-35 MPH winds will create blowing snow and reduced visibility after midnight and into the early daylight hours Monday morning. Drive carefully! Between snow bands, expect cloudy skies, and overnight lows will be around 30 °F.

Monday will be a raw, rather nasty day to be outdoors. It will be cloudy, and lake effect snow bands will shift over to rain as temperatures warm up. However, with gusty winds throughout the day, only beginning to quiet down in the later afternoon and evening, temperatures will not rise much, only into the upper 30s. The strongest winds will be in the mid-to-late morning (8 AM -12 PM), approaching 40 MPH at times, and potentially stronger gusts at higher elevations. As the Canadian low continues to move eastward during the day, winds will turn to the west, which will angle bands closer to Syracuse and Oswego, and concurrently they will weaken. It will remain cloudy and still rather breezy Monday night, and a few light rain or snow showers are possible. However, as high pressure begins to build in from the lower Mississippi River Valley, the winds will be channeling in warmer air, going from about mid 30s in the evening to upper 30s after midnight.

Tuesday will be a better day, for those who plan to vote on Election Day (and every indication seems to be for a high turnout this year). You’ll want a coat if you end up waiting in line outdoors, but you won’t need an umbrella. A few lake-enhanced sprinkles of rain are possible, but nothing substantial, and otherwise it’ll be partly cloudy with highs in the mid 40s. As the high pressure system continues to move in from the southwest, the partly cloudy skies will continue to clear, and you can expect a starry night Tuesday with lows in the mid 30s.

Regardless of how Wednesday looks from an electoral perspective, meteorologically it will be quiet nice as that high pressure area shifts a little further east and kickstarts a strong southwesterly flow into the Southern Tier, while keeping the air aloft stable and dry. Plan for sunny skies and highs comfortably in the low 60s. Wednesday night will be dry and mostly clear, with lows in the low 40s.

The highs shifts a little further eastward into the Atlantic Ocean Thursday, but strong southwesterly flow will continue to provide for warm and dry conditions, with a tighter gradient as the high strengthens. It will be partly cloudy with highs in the mid 60s. Thursday night will be partly cloudy with lows in the mid 40s.

Friday will be another pleasant late fall day, considerably warmer than normal with continued southwesterly flow around the high. It will be partly cloudy, and highs in the upper 60s will fall just short of a record of 71°F set in 1948. Friday night will host partly cloudy skies and lows in the mid 40s.

At this point, the weekend is also looking to be pleasant, as the high remains entrenched over the Atlantic and southwesterly flow continues. Highs will be in the mid to upper 60s both Saturday and Sunday with partly cloudy skies. Lows will be in the mid 40s.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

The pattern going into mid-November will be a warm one, according to analyses from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. A sustained ridge thanks to a high pressure ridge in the western Atlantic will keep conditions substantially warmer than normal for much of the eastern seaboard, while a sustained trough in the west will allow polar air to settle into the Mountain West and upper Great Plains. Precipitation will be near to slightly above normal for the period.

Brian Crandall

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