ITHACA, N.Y. — Take a deep breath and pour yourself another cup of your coping beverage of choice. A pair of winter storms are set to make a mess of the roads and make travel a hassle for the week ahead.

Your Weekly Weather (and Storm Summary)

Let’s get the most immediate short-term stuff out of the way before delving into this. Today will be cloudy with highs in the mid 20s, and tonight will be mostly cloudy with lows in the mid teens. The problems start tomorrow, in the late morning and early afternoon. A Winter Storm Watch has been issued by the National Weather Service Binghamton office from Monday 10 AM through Tuesday 4 PM.

Our national weather situation is being shaped by an unusually deep and potent offshoot of the polar vortex has plowed through the Great Plains down into Texas. On the bright side, that means we avoid the worst of the cold (Minneapolis will have a low in the -20s, Omaha around -16°F, Oklahoma City is forecast to hit -6°F, and Dallas will be close to 0°F). On the not-so-bright side, this creates a highly-amplified and energetic jet stream pattern, with the western (trailing) edge of the downstream jet ridge over the east coast. This energetic flow is going to help strengthen and funnel northeastward a developing storm system from the Texas Gulf Coast, across the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and we are in the bulls-eye for the cold side of its precipitation shield.

Image courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Tompkins County – and if you’re one of our regional readers, anywhere to the north and west of Binghamton – can expect a colder event that’s all-snow. Expect light to moderate snow during the afternoon and evening Monday, and this will become more intense and evolve into heavier snow bands after midnight, and these heavier bands will continue through late morning Tuesday, with lighter intervals between bands. A few (2-3″) inches will fall by the end of the day Monday, with 6-9″ overnight into Tuesday morning, so we’re looking at total amounts in the 8-12″ range. Not something folks here aren’t used to, but travel will become difficult, especially difficult as the snow builds up between plow runs, so do take more time if you’ll be on the roads Monday and especially early Tuesday. Highs will be in the mid 20s Monday, and lows in the low 20s Monday night.

If you’ll be traveling out of the area Monday night, do keep in mind that the further south and east you go, the less snow you’ll see, but instead you’ll see a greater amount of sleet and freezing rain. The layer of warm air is thicker to the south and east, but there will still be a layer of cold air between the ground and the warm air further up (warm air is less dense than cold air). When you start seeing more than 0.1″ of ice is when you tend to start having widespread travel disruptions and power outages from lines snapping due to the weight of ice. This means if you’re heading to Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, expect hazardous icy conditions and likely delays. Driving on Route 17 is bad enough in normal winter conditions, but having the highway turn into an ice-coated bobsled run is even worse.

As the storm lifts off to the northeast Tuesday afternoon, a few lingering lake-enhanced showers will persist behind the low, but nothing major. With the colder air coming in on the rear flank of its counterclockwise flow, a little more of that bitter Arctic air will infiltrate, with highs in the low 20s Tuesday under cloudy skies and a few isolated snow showers, and mostly cloudy skies with a few snow showers Tuesday night as lows fall into the upper single-digits.

High pressure will briefly build in from the west for Wednesday, and that should be our quietest day, with partly cloudy skies and highs in the mid 20s. Wednesday night will be mostly cloudy and dry with lows in the lower teens.

The next system begins to build northeastward Thursday. The large-scale jet stream pattern will persist, but in this case the jet stream ridge will have retrograded a little westward, meaning the core of the low passes to the west, placing Tompkins County in its warm sector. We’ll start off with temperatures in the upper teens and snow shortly after sunrise Thursday, with light to moderate snow continuing through the day as temperatures rise closer to freezing by sunset; estimates right now suggest 4-6″, and the amount has trended downward in the last few model runs.

Around midnight Thursday night into Friday morning, enough warm air will have funneled up by the storm’s counterclockwise flow to change the snow over to rain, and temperatures will be in the low to mid 30s through the rest of the night and through most of the day Friday, a cold, steady rain as currently forecast. That warm air will make the difference between a few inches of snow and one foot, so we need to keep an eye on it over the next couple days. Colder air will filter back in Friday night as the storm’s low pressure center passes our longitude around sunset and northerly flow kicks in, and a few snow showers will persist Friday night with lows around 20°F.

Early indications for next weekend show it’ll be quiet as high pressure builds in for Saturday and Sunday; on the cold (eastern) side of its clockwise flow Saturday, it will be partly cloudy with highs will be in the upper 20s, and Sunday, on the warm (western) side of the high, temperatures look like they’ll make it into the mid 30s for highs with partly to mostly cloudy skies.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

By about this time next week, medium-range models suggests a regime shift in the jet stream configuration. With the polar vortex substantially depleted by its extended trip into the Central United States, it will recede, and that will allow a ridge to build in over much of the eastern two-thirds of the country, though at least one polar air lobe will persist, in through Alaska, Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Precipitation would be near-normal for the last-third of February. The longer-period runs suggest near-normal temperatures and precipitation for the beginning of March, which is also the start of meteorological spring.

Keep your fingers crossed, tight? Enjoy your coping beverages and Valentine’s Day dinners, folks. Hopefully they’re piping hot dishes.

Brian Crandall

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