Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton

Weather Recap

Probably the big thing on everyone’s mind from last week was the Nor’Easter that blew through the region Thursday night through Friday. In Washington D.C., near-hurricane force winds forced the evacuation of the airplane control tower at Dulles. More than two million people lost power, and hundreds along the New England Coast had to be rescued from flooding tides driven by the churning seas and vicious winds. Cobleskill, in the hills west of Albany, the picked up over 40 inches.

In Ithaca, the effect was surprisingly muted. During some of the most intense periods for snow upstate, the bands of the snow struggled to make it east of I-81. The local maximum actually appears to be an 11″ reading from Ulysses. It certainly makes sense that higher elevations would have seen more snow from a system flirting with the rain-snow line – one or two degrees could have made difference between a cold rain and a heavy, wet snow. Mesoscale banding in the greater system can create heavier pockets, and the unexpected heavy snow in Albany and Saratoga may be attributable to precipitation falling so fast, evaporational cooling was just enough to chill the last few hundred feet above ground and flip the incoming precipitation to a heavy snow.

To be honest, while there are theories and observations, the answers on why some places underperformed or overperformed isn’t completely clear. Research meteorologists will be studying this event for years to come, so that future weather model updates will accommodate revised atmospheric physics schemes and be more accurate to the observed behaviors.

This next week is likely to have another storm sweep through the Northeast, but with any luck, Tompkins County will be far enough out of the bullseye that folks will hardly notice its passage.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Forecast

Generally, this week should be fairly quiet, at least for those sticking to Tompkins County for their travels. Steady northwest winds driven by the circulation of a powerful offshore storm will keep temperatures seasonably cool for the next couple of days. Note that upper 30s F and about 20°F are the typical highs and lows for early March.

Mid-week, we’ll see a meteorological repeat as an area of low pressure tracking over the Ohio River Valley transfers energy to a new coastal storm, which is expected to rapidly develop off the Atlantic Coast Tuesday evening into Wednesday (meteorologists classify these events as Miller “Type B” Nor’Easters). This time around, the system appears to be too far east to have significant impacts on the Southern Tier, but those heading to Albany or Boston on Wednesday will want to keep a watchful eye on the weather and resulting road conditions, as those places could see several inches or more of snow. Once that storm system passes, things are looking seasonable and quiet for the remainder of the week.

For today, expect mostly cloudy skies, maybe a flurry or two, with a high in the low 30s, and perhaps just above freezing in the urban core. A steady north-northwest breeze will make it feel about ten degrees cooler. Monday night, the mostly cloudy skies will continue, as winds die down and start to veer to the southeast and south ahead of the next storm system. Lows will be in the low 20s.

On Tuesday, thanks to light southeast wind and a few more breaks in the clouds, temperatures should make into the upper 30s and low 40s for most of Tompkins County. However, the clouds will thicken during the afternoon as the frontal boundary approaches, and by Tuesday evening rain showers will commence, giving way to snow showers as temperatures recede towards 32°F.

It’ll be late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning where the chance of snow is greatest, but all in all, it looks like most folks will only wake up to a coating to perhaps an inch Wednesday morning, maybe two inches in a few isolated spots east of Ithaca. As mentioned earlier, if you’re heading east or south, watch the forecast. Wednesday will be cloudy, with any lingering snow showers switching over to rain as temperatures climb into the mid and upper 30s. Wednesday night, winds will shift back to the north as the coastal storm strengthens and pushes northeast. Expect cloudy skies, a few snow showers, and temperatures will be in the upper 20s.

The storm will be slow to move away, so Thursday will be cloudy, with a few brief snow or rain showers, and highs in the upper 30s. Thursday night will be mostly cloudy and falling back into the upper 20s, and Friday will also be cloudy, a few showers, and upper 30s. The second half of the work week will be quiet, but rather cold and grey. That’s actually not that bad for March in upstate New York.

It looks like the weekend will be an improvement, at least – clouds being to break up Friday night as lows fall a little more into the mid 20s with better radiational cooling, but Saturday and Sunday will be sunny with highs in the low 40s.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA CPC.

Extended Outlook

The medium-range indications suggest no extreme cold or extreme warm events to ring in mid-March. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center suggests seasonable temperatures for the Northeast, with somewhat drier than normal conditions. For late March, chances are looking better than average for a warm finish to the month.

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