Syracuse, N.Y. — It was less than a week ago that Central New York basked in a record-breaking, 80-degree day in early November.
Now the payback begins: The season’s first lake effect snowfall is expected late this weekend and into Monday.
It won’t be a lot — an inch or two tops in Syracuse, maybe a little more in the hills and traditional snowbelts of Tug Hill and Western New York.
But it will also kick off the first week of cold, winter-is-on-its-way temperatures. The high temperatures next week will stay in the low 40s, the National Weather Service says. Normal highs this time of year are about 50 degrees. Lows will fall into the high 20s, a few degrees colder than normal.
Before the snow flies, though, we’ll deal with the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which is expected to bring 1 to 3 inches of rain to Central New York, with the most rain falling in and near the Finger Lakes region. Given how dry it’s been lately — we’ve had just over an inch of rain in the past six weeks — the weather service isn’t too worried about flooding.
As Nicole pushes up through Maine and maritime Canada, a strong storm system from the Upper Midwest will blow across the Great Lakes. Forecasting the exact location of lake effect snow is always hazardous because small shifts in wind direction can drop the snow miles from where it’s expected. Right now, though, the winds late Sunday and early Monday are expected to be out of the west-northwest, which would transport moisture rising from Lake Ontario into Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties.
Snow is late this year in arriving in Syracuse, the nation’s snowiest large city. The average date of first snow is Nov. 6, according to Northeast Climate Center data. Last year, when Syracuse had one of its warmest falls on record, the first snow came Nov. 16.
Central New York is likely to have a normal winter overall, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. That “normal” be simply be the average of extremes, said Mark Wysocki, New York state climatologist.
Wysocki said that, thanks to wide oscillations in the jet stream, we can expect extended periods of weather 10 to 15 degrees below normal alternating with periods of 10 to 15 degrees above.
That whipsaw pattern could mean heavy lake-effect snow followed by rapid melting, which could wreak havoc on the winter recreational sports season and cause flooding.