Warmer temperatures will quickly dip as a cold front moves into the region today, bringing with it freezing rain and then possibly up to a foot of snow on Saturday.
National Weather Service in Binghamton Meteorologist Michael Murphy said temperatures will drop throughout the day and take a sharp dip by nightfall.
“There will be a really fast temperature drop, Temperatures will be in the mid 50s today, then later this afternoon they will be in the lower 50s, but by midnight, they’ll be down in the mid 20s,” Murphy said. “By tomorrow morning, it will be around 15 degrees, so a sharp temperature drop is expected, and that will cause icy roads again with a flash freeze situation late (this) evening.”
What’s causing the sudden switch in temperatures is an arctic blast moving over the region.
“A strong, very moist southerly flow” of air “came up and brought the periods of heavy rainfall today, but then a strong arctic cold front will be moving over the Great Lakes and then into our area,” Murphy said.
The meteorologist said the rain will turn into a wintery mix of sleet and freezing rain in the evening, with snow expected to fall later tonight. Rain will turn over to freezing rain around 10 p.m., he said, and then to sleet around midnight before the heavy snowfall strikes.
Following the sleet, it will then “change to moderate and even heavy snow during the early morning hours Saturday and then it will be continuing,” Murphy said. “You will see quite a bit of snow, anywhere between 6-10 inches, or locally, up to a foot” on Saturday.
The freezing rain and sleet is already expected to cause slick road conditions throughout the area tonight, but Murphy warned that the snowfall on top of that could make driving hazardous. Ice accumulation during the weather event is expected to be anywhere between one-tenth to two-tenths of an inch, he said.
“Tomorrow morning the roads will most likely be in bad shape,” the meteorologist said.
Temperatures are expected to be a low of 14 degrees tonight and not climb. Saturday’s high will be 15 degrees, with a low of -8 degrees. Sunday and Monday temperatures will remain bitter cold, Murphy said, with highs in the lower to mid teens.
“Sunday morning you will have low temperatures from 0 to 10 below, and Monday morning it will be really cold too, with high temperatures only in the lower teens for Sunday and Monday,” the meteorologist said. “And it looks pretty cold for the next week, with some more chances of snow into next week as well.”
As roads become slick, local Department of Public Works employees will be out in full force, making sure roads are salted and plowed.
City Department of Public Works Supervisor Tom Jones said plenty of salt and sand will be on hand at the city garage to be sure roadways are safe for travel. During the warmer weather over the last couple days, Jones said DPW mechanics were able to take some time to inspect the fleet of plow trucks, fixing any problems before winter strikes again tonight.
With heavy rain washing away what salt and sand was already on the roads over the last couple days, Jones said DPW crews will need to get out and prepare the roads early before the freezing rain that is expected to hit tonight.
“If the freezing rain is coming and the salt and sand residue is off the roads, we will pre-salt and put rock salt down on the roads so it’s not a complete skating rink,” Jones said. “We do our best, but we can’t be everywhere at once. We’ll focus on the main streets first and work on secondary streets from there.”
If Mother Nature drops as much flakes as predicted Saturday, Jones said plow truck drivers will be on 24-hour watch, making sure manpower rotates as they battle the road conditions.
“We have a 24-hour watch in the winter, so we have guys on 24 hours-a-day and they’re our eyes. So if it gets icy, they will call the supervisor on call and make the determination from there to whether call additional crew or stay longer,” he said. “We’ll get everything in decent shape and then leave for a few hours, so the guys can get a rest or break from here.”
Preparing for the upcoming storm is “typical protocol” for a central New York winter, Jones said. But warmer temperatures and heavy rain also caused other obstacles, he said.
“We’re at an ice jam up on Townline Road right now, and there’s been ice jams in the culvert pipes,” Jones said. “We’re working with the water department to get things flushed and out of here. We’re fighting the rain and then we’ll be flipping over to freezing rain and snow later on. So drivers should use extra caution and plan a little extra time ahead.”
- Contributing to the story were Westmoreland Central School seniors Arianna Granza and Braelyn Riesel.