ITHACA, N.Y. —We know, you’re ready for spring. The clocks have sprung forward, the birds are more noticeable, the sun angle is much higher. Unfortunately, you’ll have to set those spring dreams aside for the next few days. A potent Nor’Easter is expected to impact Tompkins County Monday through Wednesday, with the most major impacts on Tuesday.

Up to 12″ of snow will be possible, as well as gusty winds. With temperatures around 32 F and oceanic moisture, the heavy, wet snow will likely bring widespread power outages, and roads heading east out of Tompkins will be difficult to travel, if possible at all Tuesday. Plan accordingly.

Your Weekly Weather

A sunny start to your Sunday has begun to cloud over as some high cirrus stream in overhead. These clouds are the fringe of a low pressure storm system over the Midwest, a system which will move southeastward and pass off its energy to a developing coastal storm. This coastal low is the storm we have to worry about.

This coastal will rapidly deepen (strengthen) as it heads north-northeastward Monday. This will effectively make up round one of the system, with a NW-SE band of heavy snow likely to set up somewhere over NYS into Tuesday morning, 1″-2″/hour in the area affected, with lighter snowfall outside of it. As this time, the expectation is that Tompkins County will be west of this band, in the lighter area.

Round two is when the Nor’Easter retrogrades as a secondary core forms, and the two cores rotate around each other before merging into a very powerful storm center Tuesday night over Cape Cod. The very low pressure center will drive strong wind gusts up to 40 MPH later Tuesday into Wednesday, as well more moderate to heavy snow across the region after a relative lull midday Tuesday. The system will slowly move eastward and away from the area Wednesday.

In terms of impacts, areas around Cayuga Lake, urban Ithaca and southwestern Tompkins County can expect 6-8″, due to remnant milder air around the lake valley, and being further away from the storm’s snow bands. The rest of Tompkins County can expect 8-12″, with generally higher amounts as one heads east. This will be a heavy, wet snow with a high liquid content. Even with the wind gusts of 40 MPH late Tuesday, blowing snow is unlikely.

However, the snow will weigh down tree limbs and power lines, so widespread power outages are likely, especially east of Ithaca. Roads will be difficult to travel on Tuesday morning, and then again Tuesday night. Snowfall totals of two feet or more along I-88 and NY-17 will render those roads nearly impossible to travel Monday night through Tuesday night – if you’re driving to Albany, Boston or New York, take note and adjust your plans to avoid a bad situation.

Now, turning to the forecast itself, expect a quiet Sunday with increasing clouds and remaining dry through sunset, with highs in the low 40s. Sunday night may see a few rain, later snow showers primarily to Ithaca’s south as the Midwest low skirts over the Mid-Atlantic. Amounts will be minimal, and lows will be in mid 30s with cloudy skies overhead.

Monday will start off cloudy and showery, with more persistent light to moderate rains by afternoon as the coastal storm approaches. The hilltops will change over to snow around sunset, with the valley areas a little later in the evening. Highs will be around 40. Snow of varying intensity will occur Monday night across the county, generally stronger to the north and east. Lows will be in the upper 20s. The western half of Tompkins County can expect 3-4″ by morning, the eastern half 4-6″, on the lower side of that range in the valleys and along the lake, and the higher end of that range on the hilltops.

Tuesday will be a difficult travel day, as snow continues through the day, generally stronger in the PM hours. Winds will also pick up during the day, gusting 35-40 MPH by evening. Highs will be in the mid 30s. Tuesday night will see snow begin to wind down after midnight, with showers continuing into Wednesday morning, and gusty northwest winds. Lows will be in the upper 20s. Additional new snowfall Tuesday will be 3-8″, generally higher north and east of Ithaca, lower to the south and west. Remember, this will be heavy, wet snow. Downed tree limbs and power wires are likely in areas with heavier snowfall. Be very careful if you need to travel, and eastbound travel out of the area on the major highways is strongly discouraged due to dangerous conditions.

As the Nor’Easter pulls away to the east, Wednesday will see snow showers in the morning, tapering off by later afternoon, and breezy northwest winds continuing. Highs will be in the mid 30s with mostly cloudy skies. Wednesday night will be quiet and cold with mostly cloudy skies and lows around 20.

High pressure builds in from the Ohio River Valley for Thursday, which will introduce more stable, milder air into the region. Skies will be mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 40s – between the high sun angle, mild ambient temperature and fresh deep snowfall, low-lying areas prone to meltwater flooding will want to keep an eye on their sump pumps and problem spots, especially if the snow blocks normal runoff routes. Thursday night will see mostly cloudy skies with lows in the lower 30s.

Friday will see some enhancement of southerly flow as a storm system builds in the Midwest. This is a large system, but models show dry air in and around Tompkins County, limiting new rainfall amounts. Expect near-overcast skies with a few rain scattered rain showers and highs around 50. Friday night will see cloudy skies and scattered rain showers, with lows in the upper 30s.

As for next weekend, Saturday will be seasonable if unsettled, with rain showers and highs in the mid 40s, while Sunday will be cooler and drier, with mostly cloudy skies and highs in the upper 30s.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking into the start of astronomical spring, the cold pattern that has gripped much of the country is expected to continue, as displaced polar air and a persistent large wavelength (longwave) jet stream trough largely hold through the middle of the month. Pacific moisture and “atmospheric rivers” will continue to funnel moisture into the West Coast and interior mountains of the west, while the jet trough will drive storm systems across the Southern United State. While modestly colder than normal in the Northeast, dry continental air is expected to create drier than normal conditions for the period.

Brian Crandall

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