ITHACA, N.Y. — Get your shovels out and make plans accordingly – a complex and powerful winter storm is expected to roar through the region late tonight through Friday. A Winter Storm Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service.

Earlier this week in the weekly weather report, it was mentioned that a major storm system was expected to come through the region. At the time, the thought was that it was going to be a soaking rain. However, as the time has drawn closer, models have indicated conditions will be cold enough for a heavy, wet snow.

Storm totals in Tompkins County are expected to be 6-12″, with many higher elevations exceeded a foot of heavy, wet snow. Snowfall amounts will be highly dependent on elevation, with valley locations with remnant warm air likely to see a few inches less than hilltops. Snowfall will also generally increase from west to east. It is possible that the heaviness and intensity of the snowfall could bring down tree limbs and electrical lines, leading to power outages. Blowing and drifting snow will make travel hazardous. Blizzard and near-blizzard conditions are likely.

The event will start with a moderate to heavy rain this evening and into the overnight. As the storm intensifies, cold air will be dragged into the region, causing a changeover from rain to snow around 2-3 AM in Ithaca, and earlier (11 PM – 2 AM) in higher elevations and slightly cooler rural areas. The heaviest snowfall is expected before 12 PM Friday.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Further complicating the situation is the expectation for high winds. Strong northwest winds will rise as the coastal low strengthens during the day Friday. Wind gusts during the storm are likely to exceed 50 MPH east of Ithaca in the hills of Dryden and Caroline. The rest of the county can still expect 35-45 MPH wind gusts. Steady winds of 20-30 MPH are expected.

The storm will slowly pull away from the region Friday evening, leading to a gradual tapering to a light snow, and then snow showers during the afternoon and evening. Blowing and drifting snow will continue to be an issue through Friday night into Saturday morning. Temperatures are expected to be near 40 Saturday and Sunday, which should allow some melt-off, intensifying as temperatures climb higher next week.

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