Good evening! Happy Friday!
While many of us might be shouting TGIF and settling into a relaxing weekend on the couch with a good book or a plan of attack for binging a new show, it’s going to be a challenging couple of days for those who have to be out on the roads.
And coach potatoes, Mother Nature may not let you off so easily, either. In addition to dangerous travel conditions, we may be dealt power outages and flooding from an odd, complex weather setup. Let’s get into it!
The big picture all centers around a boundary between two air masses. Think of it as an invisible fence or wall in the atmosphere. To the north of the boundary, cold air. South of it, you guessed it, warm air. And along that boundary, a stream of moisture is being pulled from the Gulf of Mexico right into our neck-of-the-woods. This saturates the air over northern New York and New England to a very rare level for mid-January.
That boundary moves from southeastern Ontario Friday night towards the St. Lawrence River Valley Saturday morning. It’s really only raining before midday tomorrow in the St. Lawrence River Valley and the northwestern edge of the Adirondacks. For everyone else, the day starts relatively dry but very windy. Nighttime and early morning south gusts could hit 30 to even 45 mph, especially in the Champlain Valley. The temp stays steady, if not rises, overnight, towards the 40s and even low 50s by late morning.
Then, the rain starts making more progress east, spreading out over the rest of northern New York, Vermont and into New Hampshire during the afternoon and evening. As the boundary is slipping southeast, pushing all that rain, heavy at times, out in front of it, cold air starts seeping in behind it, out of Canada.
Beginning between 3-6 PM, the threat for icing from freezing rain takes center stage, especially along the Canadian border in northern New York and northern Vermont. The temp will aggressively and quickly plunge below freezing at the lowest level of the atmosphere, near the surface.
There will be substantial ice accumulation along the Canadian border. However, the question mark in all of this is still how far south that cold air leaks into the Champlain Valley? Does it reach the Burlington metro area? Does it reach Essex County, N.Y. to Addison County, Vt.? At this point, it seems likely. But, as a general rule of thumb, the farther south you are this go-around, the more likely you escape damaging ice totals.
Sunday morning, there will be one final big push of heavy rain, from west to east. This will put many up at 1-2″ of total rainfall through the weekend. The biggest exception is the Connecticut River Valley, where just 0.5-0.75″ total rain is anticipated. That rain will zip off to the east from late morning to early afternoon, leaving a drier, but once again breezy second half of the day. A northwesterly wind kicks up to 10-20 mph, which may prove problematic in ice-laden areas.
Also, though smaller creeks and streams may have already overflowed at this point, and poor-drainage, low-lying depressions may have become inundated with water, larger rivers are not expected to crest until Sunday afternoon. There are several rivers the National Weather Service has identified as being at the greatest risk, including factors like forecast rainfall totals, current ice thickness plus upstream and surrounding snowpack.
So, in summary, this weekend is wet and windy. Warm air sticks around through the first half of Saturday but is followed by a quick surge of colder air Saturday night, leaving far northern New York and northern Vermont under a thick coat of ice. There will be scattered power outages and driving will be difficult late Saturday to early Sunday. Smaller creeks and streams, along with several larger rivers, are at risk for minor to moderate flooding, with the water not receding until late Sunday. Phew, that’s a lot!
Be prepared for power outages and be safe if you venture out this weekend!
-Skytracker Chief Meteorologist Amanda Thibault