ITHACA, N.Y. — You still have a few hours to dig out the shovels and grab the snow brush from the car before it gets a wintry shell. A coastal storm system is likely to drop several inches of snow across Upstate tonight into tomorrow, in what’s been something of a rarity so far this winter. A second storm is likely to impact the region Wednesday into Thursday.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

Skies are overcast and temperatures are climbing into the mid and upper 30s ahead of a storm system that will impact Tompkins County today and tomorrow. A developing coastal storm will move up the Eastern Seaboard from Georgia to Nova Scotia, assisted with energy from a shortwave over the Ohio River Valley.

Models have been fairly consistent on this storm in terms of its impacts. Tompkins County will be on west side of its primary axis of precipitation, and while the county will be on the cold side of the low, relatively mild air in place will help to limit initial accumulations, so in sum snowfall amounts won’t be anything to write home about.

Generally, expect 3-5″ around Cayuga Lake and urban Ithaca where there’s a little more mild air in place, and 4-6″ up in the outlying hills and rural Tompkins County. Depending on how far a tendril of warm air can make it into the Southern Tier ahead of the low tonight, we could see amounts less than forecast, but assume at the very least you’ll need to shovel or plow out ahead of your commute tomorrow morning (and as always, with snow on the roads, be careful, drive slower and give extra time for your commute).

In terms of timing, expect a rain-snow mix to begin in the 4-6 PM time frame, fairly light at first. The bulk of the snow will be after 8 PM and before 6 AM Monday, after temperatures have cooled from daytime highs to around 32, give a take a degree or two depending on local temperature and dewpoint (a very important degree or two that equates to the difference between 3″ and 6″ of snow). Lows tonight will be in the low 30s with light to moderate snowfall, so do be careful if you’ll be traveling. On a related note, higher snowfall, over 12″ in some models, can be expected on the I-88 corridor, so be extra careful or reconfigure your travel plans if you’re heading to Albany or Boston tonight or tomorrow morning.

Steady snow tapers to snow showers Monday morning as the system moves off to the northeast, with just a few scattered light snow showers by sunset. There might be another inch of snow during the day Monday, with grey skies, gusty northwest winds and highs in the lower 30s. Monday night will be cloudy but dry with gusty westerly winds and lows in the upper 20s, but windchills that make it feel more like the teens.

Tuesday will be a comparatively quieter day as a storm system falls apart well to the north of Tompkins County. There could be a few isolated rain or snow showers from the southern end of its decaying cold front, but it’s going to be little or any for most readers. Skies will be cloudy with a stiff westerly wind and highs in the mid and upper 30s. Tuesday night will be cloudy with winds calming down and lows in the mid 20s.

The storm system that arrives for Wednesday afternoon will be on a decidedly different track than tonight’s event. In Wednesday’s case, the path is northeastward up the Mississippi River Valley, passing over Detroit, and than taking a more ENE jaunt over Toronto and Montreal. This more westerly path will allow Tompkins County to reside in the warm sector of the low’s counterclockwise flow for a time, and that will result in more of a rain event than a snow event.

Now, we’re going to predicate this on the current predicted path – if the storm moves much further east than expected before Wednesday, this goes from a soaking rain with some snow at the beginning and end, to Frosty the Snowman’s dump on Tompkins County.

As of this time, expect a few showers early Wednesday, with a light to moderate snow for the afternoon as temperatures sit in the lower 30s – 1-3″ generally. As the warm air of the low’s counterclockwise flow works in, the temperatures will climb to around 35-36 F and stay there overnight, which should allow for a transition to an extended cold rain through sunrise Thursday. This transitions back to snow Thursday morning as the low passes Ithaca’s longitude and re-enters the cold sector, with northwest winds and another dose of snow before tapering off to showers by sunset Thursday. Showers taper off Thursday night and temperatures drop to the upper teens for lows by Friday morning.

Now, at this point, I would like to say that eventually you see the run this week. You might Friday. Briefly. A modest ridge will allow for dry conditions, mostly cloudy skies and highs in the lower 30s. Friday night will be mostly cloudy with lows in the lower 20s.

Another Canadian clipper low will pass to the north Saturday into Sunday, and this one will likely hold together long enough to drop a quick inch of snow and maybe some rain/showers as well. Skies will be near-overcast with highs in the mid and upper 30s, and low in the low and mid 20s.

Now, perhaps the strangest things about this wet, stormy week is that temperature-wise, it’s well above average. Average highs are low 30s, while average lows are mid teens this time of the year, so on the balance we’ll be running on the warm side of the normal, even if it doesn’t feel warm by most interpretations.

Images courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking into the start of February, large-scale patterns generally favor a large jet stream trough over much of the United States, with most areas outside of the Southeast and Alaska expected to be below-normal temperature-wise. This setup would be favorable for both channeling Pacific Ocean into the West Coast, and Gulf of Mexico moisture along the jet stream over the Lower Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, so precipitation will likely be slightly above-normal for the Northeast. Cold and wet is not what people want to hear, we know, but you can always hope the medium-range outlook ends up being wrong, I guess.

Brian Crandall

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