Monday, January 02, 2012

Lake effect snow machine

After a very mild start to 2012 across the eastern third of North America, the coldest air of the winter so far is on our doorstep. Happy New Year everyone, we started the year with a very mild high of plus 6C (43F) in Montreal with some light rain yesterday. The winds have picked up in the region this morning after the passage a cold front overnight and are gusting out of the southwest to 50km/h. It remains above freezing this morning with a current reading here on Ile Perrot of 2C (36F).

Strong low pressure moving across central Quebec is trailing a second front across eastern Ontario sweeping into the northern US. This front has very cold air and strong northwest winds associated with it. We are currently at our high for the day, with temperatures dropping all day long. The arctic front should approach the city around midday with a brief burst of heavy snow and very windy weather. Roads will likely ice up quickly so be prepared. The temperature will tumble throughout the day and night and settle in around -15C on Tuesday. Strong northwest winds up to 60km/h will drop windchill values into the -20's.

Those same winds will be blowing across the Great Lakes creating the perfect conditions for lake effect snow. It is already snowing around Lake Huron and Georgian Bay this morning as well as western New York near Buffalo and Watertown. The heavy lake effect snow will intensify today with widespread blowing snow and near blizzard conditions along portions of Interstate 81 from the Canadian border to Syracuse as well as Interstate 90 southwest of Buffalo. Warnings are in place and travel is not advised in those regions. Total snow amounts in the warned areas could be in the 10 to 20 inch (25-50cm) range. Elsewhere outside of the snow belts a general 1 to 2 inches (3-5cm) is expected. Across the Tug Hill south of Watertown over 2 feet is quite possible. Thunder and lightning will accompany the most intense squalls.

Yesterday, strong winds along the Lake Erie and Ontario shoreline produced flooding as well as power failures. Peak wind gusts across western New York and southwest Ontario were over 100km/h (60mph).

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