ITHACA, N.Y. — Given the recent cold temperatures and the lake effect socking Buffalo and Watertown, it’s easy to think this could be a rough Thanksgiving holiday travel season. But fear not; high pressure from the south will dominate our weather for much of the week ahead, providing stable conditions and milder, more seasonable temperatures.

Your Weekly Weather

It’s been a cold and unsettled week for Ithaca and Tompkins County. While less than an inch of snow has fallen at the Northeast Regional Climate Center’s Game Farm Road site, 77 inches has been reported outside the Buffalo Bills’ stadium in Orchard Park, and 72 inches just outside Fort Drum by Watertown.

Even as Buffalo begins to shovel out from its wintry mess, there’s always a concern that rapid melt-off after an extreme snow event will trigger widespread flooding. At least at this time, a steady melt-off for those areas appears much more likely than a rapid melt.

Winds are gusting strongly as the cold frontal boundary of a Canadian low swings across the region. With a strong high over the Ohio River Valley and a strengthening secondary low over Atlantic Canada, there’s a very tight pressure gradient, and that’s driving the strong winds across the region.

Now, for Tompkins, it’ll be a cold, windy but otherwise dry day. It’ll be mostly sunny, but those winds will keep temperatures well below normal, in the low 30s. If you’re planning traveling up I-81 anywhere north of Syracuse, the lake effect band off of Ontario will persist through the evening and overnight, and the fetch will be optimal for an intense snow band between Syracuse and Watertown. Travel will be treacherous, with blowing/drifting snow and whiteouts likely. If you can wait until Monday to head up that way, do so. Also, winds are being funneled through the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region, with wind gusts of 50 MPH. If you’re on the Thruway between Syracuse and Albany today or tonight, be very careful because the winds will push your car or truck around, and possibly tip it over if it’s a high-suspension vehicle.

Behind the low, winds will settle down tonight with the loss of daytime heating and as the high builds in. It will be a mostly clear night, and cold, with lows around 20.

A shortwave (pulse of instability) will pass to the north Monday, but forecast models suggest this quick-moving system will not impact Ithaca/Tompkins significantly, as high pressure from the south remains in control. It will provide for some additional cloud cover, and help drive a gusty southern breeze, however. Plan for mostly cloudy, breezy conditions with milder highs in the lower 40s. Monday night will see winds calm again as the shortwave moves away, with decreasing clouds and lows in the upper 20s.

High pressure over the mid-Atlantic remains in control for Tuesday, ushering in milder air on the western flank of its clockwise circulation. It will be mostly sunny with highs in the mid 40s. Tuesday night will host mostly clear skies with lows around 30.

Flow directed towards Tompkins County from the high becomes a little more southwesterly Wednesday, which will boost the temperatures a few more degrees. Expect a few passing clouds with highs near 50. Wednesday night will host partly cloudy skies with lows around 30.

For your Thanksgiving Day, it will be a nice day to burn a few calories on a post-dinner walk or to step away from the uncle who won’t stop talking about politics or how large your sister is. With high pressure extending from the Mid-Atlantic into Quebec, skies will be partly cloudy with highs around 50. Thursday night will see increasing clouds with a few rain showers developing towards morning, with lows in the mid to upper 30s.

Those showers are part of a developing low pressure storm system that will quickly swing from Hudson’s Bay Canada, southeastward through New England and out into the Atlantic Ocean by early Saturday. Temperatures support this being an all-rain event. Friday will be a mostly cloudy day with periods of light to moderate rain, breezy south winds, and highs in the upper 40s. Friday night will see rain showers, maybe a few tail-end snow showers with cold air on the backside of the low, with mostly cloudy skies and lows in the mid 30s.

Looking into next weekend, there will likely be some lake effect clouds and a few rain or snow showers, but nothing major in Tompkins County. With those unsettled conditions, highs will be in the mid 40s both days, and mid 30s overnight.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking into early December, the large-scale weather pattern favors a jet stream ridge over the Great Plains and Central U.S., with troughs far upstream and downstream. Caught between the ridge and trough, the local conditions are expected to be near normal temperature-wise. Air will generally be drawn in from the middle of the continental, which will be drier than our usual air masses and likely create a period of slightly below-normal precipitation. Meanwhile, the west coast will see air drawn in from the subtropical Pacific Ocean, allowing for come welcome rain fall on the Oregon and California coasts.

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