ITHACA, N.Y. — They say March comes in like a lion, and we’ll certainly be dealing with some unnerving weather this week, though nothing particularly fearsome. A complex storm system will cross the region Monday evening into Tuesday, and sleet and wet snow may make for some tricky travel Monday night. A second storm system Friday night into Saturday bears monitoring as well. Conditions will be generally unsettled this week, if on the warm side for the start of meteorological spring.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

Skies have been clearing around Tompkins County this morning as a clipper low skirts southeastward from Canada, across New England and over the Atlantic Ocean. Behind this low will be rather gusty winds out of the northwest, so while it will be partly sunny today with highs in the lower 40s, it’ll feel about 10 degrees cooler with that 15 MPH breeze and occasional 25 MPH gust. It is possible a few lake effect showers will stir up in the wake of the low as those northwest winds tap into the heat energy of Lake Ontario, but these will stay primarily north of Ithaca and no accumulations are expected locally. Sunday night will host mostly cloudy skies with lows in the low to mid 20s.

Heading into Monday, expect some initial clearing in the morning with some welcome sunshine, but that will quickly disappear as the next storm system moves into the region. This is a fairly fast-moving storm system that will rise up from the leeward side of the Colorado Rockies, gather strength as it heads into the Midwest, and then transfer that energy across the Appalachians to a developing coastal system. In meteorological parlance, this is the setup for a Miller Type “B” Nor’Easter event.

However, there’s a couple of things that will limit this event locally. One is that dynamically, a weakening storm to the west and a strengthening storm much farther to the east isn’t a recipe for heavy precipitation over the Southern Tier, and the coastal will head out to sea later Tuesday. For two, temperatures will be in the mid 30s when the storm arrives Monday afternoon, and hover around 32 overnight into Tuesday. Precipitation will be in the form of a sleet/wet snow combination, which means a lower accumulation, though it’ll feel dense on your shovel – good packing snow for snowpeople and snowballs, really.

In summary, expect snow showers, then steadier light snow, to build into the area from west to east Monday evening, with around 2-3″ by midnight. As the western low weakens and transfers its energy east, the precip will fall apart and become more showery, with perhaps another coating to an inch between midnight and daybreak Tuesday. So expect gusty winds overnight into Tuesday as that coastal system winds up, with 20-25 southeast winds gusting to 35 MPH. Major disruptions for travel Tuesday morning in Tompkins County aren’t expected, but it will be slippery with some blowing snow, so give yourself extra time for your morning commute. Also, if heading to Albany or New York City Monday night/Tuesday morning, consider rearranging your timing or choice of routes, because the highways through the Catskills will be tough travel.

That southeast flow will also allow for a transition to rain showers Tuesday, as temperatures warm up into the lower 40s for highs. There will be steadily decreasing cloud cover during the afternoon, but it’ll stay windy through the day. Tuesday night will see high pressure build in from the west, with partly cloudy skies overnight and lows in the mid 20s.

Wednesday will see yet another storm system skirt the area to the north – being under the core of the jet stream stinks, because it just funnels everything over us. Highs will be in the mid 40s, a mild start to March, and this event will be afternoon rain showers, with mostly cloudy skies and breezy south winds. Rain showers continue overnight Wednesday, tapering off towards sunrise Thursday. Lows will be in the mid to upper 30s.

Thursday will be another mild day, though a few rain showers will persist in the morning. Skies will be partly to mostly cloudy with highs in the mid to upper 40s. Thursday night will be mostly cloudy and dry with lows in the mid 20s.

Heading into Friday, early indications show yet another Miller Type “B”, with the first storm riding up the Mississippi River Valley and then northeastward over Lake Erie before transferring its energy to a coastal system. Temperatures will be in the mid to upper 30s during the day Friday, so precip will be a cold rain during the day and a wet snow as it tapers off Friday night into Saturday morning as lows drop into the low to mid 20s. I’m not seeing anything that says this will be a disruptive event, but this far out we’ll want to monitor it closely for changes.

As for next weekend, snow showers will peter out by Saturday afternoon, leaving partly cloudy skies and highs in the upper 30s, lows around 20, and partly cloudy with highs around 40 for Sunday.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking deeper into March, a recent complex atmospheric event over the polar regions has made it much more likely we’ll see cold snaps during the month of March, and NOAA has adjusted their longer-range outlooks accordingly. With the jet stream trough already in the Western United States, the cold air outbreak is most likely to slide down on that side of the country, but a much weaker jet stream ridge downstream will result in colder air infiltrations over the Northeast. The general stormy pattern will also continue over much of the country, though precip is expected to be only slightly above normal in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

Brian Crandall

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