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Lake-effect snow will develop Tuesday in the western Great Lakes and Wednesday in the eastern Great Lakes.
Strong, gusty winds may lead to whiteout conditions in the most intense snow bands.
Snow totals over two feet are likely in some localized areas.
After up to three feet of snow buried parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast states last week, the next round of significant lake-effect snow looms in the coming days.
The coldest air mass of the season will engulf this region during the second half of the week, setting the stage for a multi-day siege of lake-effect snow.
Lake-effect snow warnings have been issued in New York state for the counties east of Lakes Ontario and Erie, including the Buffalo metro area. A lake-effect snow advisory has been issued for some other portions of western New York, including Rochester.
Parts of northwest Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, are under lake-effect snow watches.
A blizzard warning is in effect for the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan due to strong, gusty winds creating frequent whiteout conditions.
Current Winter Weather Alerts
Lake-Effect Snow Forecast and Impacts
Organized lake-effect snow will begin to develop Tuesday morning in the western Great Lakes. Any significant snow in the eastern Great Lakes should hold off until Wednesday after a cold front pushes through the region, dropping the temperatures and shifting winds from a more westerly direction.
Lakes Erie and Ontario will likely see the highest snowfall totals due to the air picking up moisture from the western Great Lakes before reaching the eastern Great Lakes.
For example, Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay will help “feed” moisture to the snow bands that develop off Lakes Erie and Ontario due to the westerly to northwesterly prevailing winds.
Under this pattern, it’s not uncommon to see snow totals over 30 inches on the Tug Hill Plateau in New York state, east of Lake Ontario. This is due to westerly winds blowing over the longest axis of the lake, as well as the upwind connection with the western Great Lakes. The gradual west-to-east rise in elevation on the plateau also plays a role.
This does not mean snow totals downwind of the other four Great Lakes will be insignificant. There could be over a foot of snow within any persistent bands of lake-effect snow, especially if they remain nearly stationary over a given area for several hours.
While Buffalo and Cleveland may see several inches of snow from this event, it appears the most significant accumulations will stay just south and east of those respective cities.
Strong wind gusts will lead to poor visibility due to blowing and drifting snow, as well as falling snow. Therefore, whiteout conditions are possible in the core of any lake-effect bands that develop this week.
More interestingly, the strong winds could also carry some snow bands very far inland, potentially bringing flurries to the Interstate 95 corridor.
Keep in mind, these intense lake-effect snow bands are notorious for causing car accidents and pileups on highways, due to extremely low visibility and slick, snow-covered roadways. Last Thursday, two separate pileups closed stretches of Interstate 90 near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, as a lake-effect band dumped heavy snow on the highway.
As high pressure builds across the Great Lakes and Northeast states on Friday, lake-effect snow will fade away, but the weather won’t remain quiet for long.
Winter Storm Decima will impact the region by the weekend, bringing more accumulating snow. For more details on that, click the link below.
(MORE: Another Cross-Country Snowstorm)
Setup for Multi-Day Lake-Effect Siege
An upper-level area of low pressure will set up south of the Hudson Bay in Canada Tuesday into Thursday, spinning frigid westerly to northwesterly winds across the warm Great Lakes – by December standards.
Lake temperatures are still in the 40s, and the air mass will be so cold that intense snow bands will develop, potentially dumping feet of snow, especially east of Lake Ontario, where the bitterly cold air will have the longest fetch, or path of the air across the lake.
Midweek Setup for Lake-Effect Snow
Model guidance is suggesting air temperatures 5,000 feet above the ground will drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) or colder, and in order for lake-effect snow to form, the temperature difference between the lake and 5,000 feet must be at least 13 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit)
Since lake temperatures are in the 40s, the minus-20-degree air temperatures at 5,000 feet will exceed the temperature difference required for the formation of lake-effect snow.
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