Winter Storm Warnings are posted for the area from 1PM Saturday through 6PM Sunday for moderate, to at times heavy snow.
Western New York, including the Rochester area and Finger Lakes will be impacted by an impressive winter storm this weekend that will have major impacts on travel all across the Northeast.
There are a variety of factors that point to a major winter storm targeting Rochester and the Finger Lakes. The presence of a large dome of very cold air associated with high pressure to the north will be key in allowing for a frigid northeasterly wind flow in Rochester. That frigid flow off of Lake Ontario will not only draw down arctic air into the area, but it will also contribute moisture to the system as it makes a pass to our south, and thus, that lake moisture will give a boost to the snowfall totals.
Light snow will begin to fall in our area by early Saturday afternoon. The intensity will pick up through the evening hours, and will be heaviest overnight Saturday into Sunday morning. While the storm pulls away on Sunday allowing the “system snow” to taper, lake effects courtesy of Lake Ontario will allow for some “homegrown snow” to fall in Rochester owing to a persistent north and northeasterly wind flow. This is why we should expect snow to continue into Sunday evening, and possibly even Monday morning. This setup will mean additional accumulations on top of what falls from the storm itself.
This snow will be “pure powder”, which means that once the wind starts to really pick up there will be quite a bit of blowing and drifting snow with whiteouts. These winds will be nothing short of frigid. The combination of whiteouts and double digit subzero wind chills on Monday morning, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will be dangerous.
The duration of this snowfall will be noteworthy as lake effects keep the snow going into Monday. Rochester will pick up on additional snowfall after the passage of the storm due to a bone chilling, frigid north wind that triggers lake effects.
Snowfall amounts should generally range from 12-18″ for most, with some pockets of heavier snow possible closer to the lake, and also in the Finger Lakes. The heaviest snow will fall by Sunday morning, but we will continue to slowly but steadily pile on the snow thanks to the bonus snow from Lake Ontario. The heaviest snow will likely be realized into the Finger Lakes.
Expect road conditions to deteriorate quickly going into Sunday morning.
So, as we see it now, Sunday will be the most brutal day across the area with gusty winds, heavy snow early, and bitterly cold air.
As always, stay tuned for updates to the forecast and specific snowfall numbers in the coming days.