Saturday, January 2, 2016

Want Winter? Northeast Finally Going to Get A Shot

A skinny waterspout tries to form in Lake Champlain
as frigid air blows over relatively warm water
in December, 2011. Waterspouts
might form in parts of the lake early
Tuesday under similar conditions in the forecast.
New Year's Day arrived in much the same way 2015 left us, rather mild for the dead of winter.

Still, there were subtle --- and a few not so subtle signs -- that the incredible warmth that closed 2015 in the Northeast is finally getting swept away by winter.

The lake effect machne off Lakes Erie and Ontario got cranking over the New Year's holiday, dropping as much as a foot of snow in the most persistent bands.

The lakes are warm for this time of year, and little disturbances in the atmosphere were able to pick up some of those snow bands and maintain them all the way into western New England.

I noticed even Albany, New York managed to catch one of these squalls, and hazardous Route 9 over the Green Mountains of southern Vermont was closed for a time late New Years Day due to snow and ice.

Things will be fairly quiet today with a few snow showers around, but winter will arrive full force Sunday.

An Arctic cold front will come down from Canada, setting off snow squalls across northern New York and northern New England. Accumulations won't be extreme, maybe one or two inches in the valleys and up to four inches at the ski resorts.

But snow squalls are dangerous, in that they abruptly reduce visibility to next to nothing, and roads quickly ice over.

And here's the thing. The snow squalls expose the stupidity of stupid people on the roads. They'll be traveling along on dry pavement, then they'll encounter the snow squall and the road under their tires is suddenly slippery with the snow. But they keep barreling along at the same speed they did before it started snowing.

These are the idiots that cause those infamous major highway pileups when snow squalls rapidly move in.

Please don't be one of those stupid people if you encounter snow squalls.

Then, the first truly Arctic air comes into the Northeast Sunday night through Tuesday.

The morning commute on Monday might be dicey in quite a few areas of northern New York and much of New England. The slush will have frozen solid, and there will be black ice on the highways.

The speeding idiots who somehow managed to avoid causing crashes in Sunday's squalls will surely be up to their mischief on the roads Monday morning, so plan accordingly.

Temperatures in places like northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will struggle into the single numbers and low teens - that's it -- Monday afternoon.

Readings will get below zero for the first time this season in quite a few areas of the North Country Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

Which sets us up for a really interesting situation on Lake Champlain early Tuesday morning. The lake is still ridiculously warm for this time of year. Water temperatures are in the low 40s.

The wind will shift from the northwest to the north by the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday. The wind will blow the length of Lake Champlain, picking up moisture and forming clouds. The southern end of the lake will have lake effect snow showers.

But even cooler, this set up brings about the possibility of steam devils and waterspouts to the southern end of Lake Champlain.

If you're from Burlington south to Charlotte or Ferrisburgh, Vermont or points south of that on the lakeshore, look for some rare waterspouts within the roiling steam rising from the warm lake into the frigid January air.

This winter waterspouts have only been known to occur on a few occasions over the past several decades. They're not dangerous, as the winds within them aren't extreme, and they never come ashore.

They're just cool to look at.

During the week, the temperatures will slowly moderate and be back a bit above normal by Thursday.

But there are signs of new Arctic outbreaks coming into the Midwest and Northeast mid-month, so I really think winter is finally here.

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