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Winter Weather Awareness Week: Lake Effect Snow

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This week, we are partnering with the National Weather Service office in Binghamton for Winter Weather Awareness Week. Lake effect is Tuesday’s topic.

National Weather Service

National Weather Service

Lake effect snow is a common weather phenomena that develops often along the Great Lakes region during the late fall and early winter months, and during the spring months.

Lake effect snow occurs when “cold” air often originating from Canada, moves across open waters of the great lakes.

When cold, and often Canadian air, moves a non-frozen lake, the warm and moist air from the lake rises quickly, then condenses, and forms a cloud.

The cloud will continue to grow as long as “cold” air is moving across the lake. As the cloud continues to grow, it will eventually grow so large it will produce snow.

National Weather Service

National Weather Service

The direction of the wind is the most important factor of who will see the lake effect snow. Heavy snow will be falling at one location, while the sun may be shining just a mile or two away in either direction. The physical geography of the land and water is very important.

Lake effect snow develops in two primary ways. In the form of a “single band” and “multi-scattered bands.” All dependent from the direction of the wind. When the wind flows horizontally (from the west) across the lake, a single band forms. These bands can produce several feet of snow within a short period of time.

Take extreme caution while driving through lake effect bands. Snowfall in general can create low visibilities. Lake effect snow is known to be narrow and intense bands. Visibilities can go from 5 miles to less than a hundred feet quickly without warning when one drives into a band. Lake effect snow bands can also generate snowfall rates over 2 inches of snow per hour. This can generate hazardous driving conditions. If all possible, do not drive through intense lake effect snow bands.

We will share more tips daily during Winter Weather Awareness Week.

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