ITHACA, N.Y. — Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “(i)nto each life some rain must fall”. Well, we’re getting absolutely soaked to start off the week, with flood watches posted. Things are looking warmer and quieter later in the week, as any impacts from Hurricane Florence are expected to remain confined to our south.

Weather Recap

Well, summer’s heat and high dewpoints appear to have finally broken. September has so far added one more ninety degree day to the total, and at this point in the year, further additions are looking fairly unlikely. The Game Farm Road weather station used by Cornell and the Northeast Regional Climate Center has recorded nine days at or greater than the 90 °F mark, above the annual average of six but nothing especially notable; there were ten 90+ °F days in 2012, thirteen in 2005, and the record is 26 in 1955.

In fact, with the entrance of cold, dry air from Canada, it made for a rather brisk weekend – temperatures at the airport on Sunday didn’t even break 60 °F, a change made all the more prevalent because of our recent hot and humid spell. As of this late Sunday writeup, the rain is just starting to push into the regin from the south, with some tropical enhancements to the available thanks to Tropical Storm Gordon, which made landfall near the Mississippi-Alabama state line last Tuesday night and merged with a frontal system over the lower Mississippi River before tracking northeastward over the Ohio River Valley and into our region.

When you have frontal instability combined with tropical moisture, it can make for prolonged and high accumulation rain events – it was just such a setup that resulted in the flooding catastrophe in Elmira brought by the remnants of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. This won’t be as extreme, but it will produce heavy, prolonged rains, and given our current saturated condition, flood watches have been issued by NWS Binghamton through early Tuesday morning.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

It’ll be a wet Monday morning in Tompkins County. With several hours of moderate to heavy rain already on the ground, there will be no respite during the day, and in fact some embedded thunderstorms may make an appearance as the day goes on. Overall, it’s looking like the most substantial rains will fall in the late morning to mid afternoon time period, continuing through the evening and into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Most communities can expect 2-3″ of rain in total, though locally higher amounts may be possible.

If you live in an area with prone to flooding (Fall Creek, parts of Dryden), in an area with poor drainage or alongside a smaller stream or creek, you’ll want to keep an eye on your basement and the roads, and be mindful of any advisory upgrades to flood warnings as the day progresses. Temperature-wise, it’ll actually be warmest near midnight Tuesday, as the low moves to our north and east and its counterclockwise flow draws milder air enters the region from the southeast. Look for low 50s to start the day off, increasing to mid 60s by nighttime.

The temperature should hold steady from there, as the rain tapers off in the overnight into Tuesday morning. Tuesday will be much quieter as high pressure builds in from the west, with partly sunny skies and temperatures topping out in the mid 70s. Tuesday night will be quiet and fairly comfortable for those who like to sleep with the windows open, with mostly cloudy with lows around 60 °F, and some morning fog likely in the valley areas.

Wednesday will be a fairly pleasant, seasonable day for Ithaca and Tompkins County. Look for highs in the upper 70s with mostly cloud skies and a light north breeze. Wednesday night will see partly cloudy skies and a low in the low 60s.

Thursday is looking to be a bit on the sticky and humid side, though not as bad as what we saw last week. As the high pressure shifts eastward over Canada, it should draw in air from the Atlantic Ocean, adding some moisture to the air and some mugginess. A weak disturbance to our south will create a small risk for showers or a thunderstorm, but most areas should stay dry. Temperatures will top out in the low 80s in Ithaca proper and near 80 °F elsewhere as the dewpoint reaches the low 70s. Thursday night will be rather humid, windows-closed kinda night as temperatures only recede to the mid 60s under partly cloudy skies.

So on that note, will Hurricane Florence affect us? The short answer is no. The long answer is that the strong Canadian high pressure extending over us will work as a large barrier to Hurricane Florence, which is most likely to make landfall along the coast of the Carolinas Thursday evening. The storm will create an incredibly dangerous situation for anyone from about Myrtle Beach up through the Outer Banks – Florence is likely to make landfall as a powerful hurricane and the high pressure area will halt its forward motion, causing it to stall out over the mid-Atlantic. That means prolonged hurricane-force winds and extreme coastal and rain (freshwater) flooding risks, with some models calling for 20-30 inches of rain.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the potential risk to life and property is very high, and widespread destruction is possible. But the hurricane will thankfully not directly impact the Southern Tier.

As for Friday, we’re expecting a day similar to Thursday – a partly cloudy and rather muggy day with highs in the low 80s. Friday night will be muggy and generally quiet with lows in the mid 60s, and next weekend is looking to be partly sunny, with maybe some showers on Sunday on southerly flow, and highs in the low 80s and upper 70s respectively.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking further ahead into the second half of the month, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center is expecting the ridge over the Eastern United States to flatten out somewhat, resulting in fairly seasonable temperatures after next weekend, with a fairly typical precipitation pattern (no abnormally dry or wet periods expected). For that time of the month, low 70s is about normal for a high, so if it pans out, conditions will be fairly pleasant for your apple picking, Adirondack leaf peeping or whatever your itinerary holds.

Brian Crandall

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