Not going to put a map out on this one, but the first significant lake-effect snow storm of the season is nearly upon us. Locally, the mountains of West Virginia could see 6-12″ with localized amounts of 12-18″+ in the best-positioned areas. Similar totals can also be expected downwind of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie (though Ontario more so).
The story is starting to make itself known as the high-resolution models can start picking up on event QPF totals for the region:
(click to enlarge) …rendering courtesy of the Penn State E-Wall
Now, not all of that QPF is for snow… you will have to cut out about 0.25″-0.50″ of that for the highest elevations as they get hit by rain before the changeover. Even after that, you’re looking at a solid 0.5″-1.0″ of QPF for a lake-effect event that will likely be producing snowfall ratios of 15-25:1, yielding low-end ranges of 8-16″ and higher-end ranges of 12-24″ in the QPF bulls-eyes. Widespread 5-10″+ along the hilltops of West Virginia seems like a pretty solid forecast at this point.
However, if you are REALLY looking for a good lake-effect event, head up to the Tug Hill Plateau east of Lake Ontario. Look at the map above again… you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you don’t, the NWS certainly does:
URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BUFFALO NY
921 AM EST SUN JAN 1 2012
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…OSWEGO…WATERTOWN…LOWVILLE
921 AM EST SUN JAN 1 2012
…LAKE EFFECT SNOW WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS
EVENING TO 10 AM EST TUESDAY…
* LOCATIONS…THE EASTERN LAKE ONTARIO REGION AND TUG HILL
* ACCUMULATIONS…3 TO 5 INCHES OVERNIGHT…5 TO 10 INCHES
MONDAY…5 TO 9 INCHES MONDAY NIGHT…AND AN INCH OR LESS
TUESDAY…LEADING TO STORM TOTALS OF 1 TO 2 FEET IN THE MOST
PERSISTENT LAKE SNOWS.
* WINDS…WEST 25 TO 35 MPH WITH WIND GUSTS TO 55 MPH.
* TEMPERATURES…LOWS AROUND 30 OVERNIGHT. HIGHS IN THE LOWER
30S MONDAY. LOWS 5 BELOW TO 5 ABOVE ZERO MONDAY NIGHT. BETWEEN
5 BELOW AND 5 ABOVE ZERO TUESDAY.
* IMPACTS…THE COMBINATION OF LOCALLY HEAVY LAKE EFFECT SNOW AND
STRONG GUSTY WINDS WILL RESULT IN PERIODS OF WHITEOUT CONDITIONS
WHICH WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY DIFFICULT OR EVEN NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE
AT TIMES WITH LOCALIZED BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. TRAVEL ALONG
INTERSTATE 81 AND ADJACENT ROADWAYS WILL BE SEVERELY IMPACTED
BY THE INCLEMENT WEATHER CONDITIONS.
There will quite possibly be enough moisture around after the lake-effect impacts the mountains to get flurries and maybe a stronger burst or two of snow east of the mountains… but don’t expect more than a dusting (unless you can get really, really lucky).