There are a few things you can count on every cold weather season here in Central New York.
One radio station will start playing Christmas music way too early.
Destiny USA will get jammed up with holiday shoppers.
And you can count on lake-effect snow, somewhere in CNY.
Lake-influence is a year-round way of life here in Central New York. The stable lake air can help produce lake-effect sunshine on a hot summer day. During the fall, we often see lake-effect rain and graupel. But where does it get extreme? Most of us agree, including Chief Meteorologist Wayne Mahar, itâ??s lake-effect snow.
â??It is unique, especially if youâ??re talking about the Tug Hill. Thereâ??s no place else in the world where you going to get snow, to the amount of the Tug Hill, what they get, 250-300 inches annually on an average. And thereâ??s no place else in the world thatâ??ll give you that much snow in such a localized-event like lake-effect.â??
This highly localized nature of lake-effect snow makes for very tricky forecasting. While most viewers know that lake-effect has something to do with the temperature difference between the lake and the air, thatâ??s merely the tip of the iceberg.
Mahar explains further: â??But thatâ??s only the start, thatâ??s the easy part. The temperature, the amount of moisture available, then youâ??ve gotta talk about wind direction. And probably most of the viewers know that. But, youâ??re gonna get your strongest band when you have a uniform wind direction. Thatâ??s not only uniform at the surface, but uniform several thousand feet up, a wind direction that isnâ??t gonna vary that much.â??
On average, our first inch of snow is picked up at the Syracuse Hancock Airport around November 17th, and our last inch is picked up around April 3rd. With nearly half of the year being fair game for those lake-effect variables to come together perfectly, no wonder keeping the roads clear is such an arduous task!
Gene Cilento of the New York State Department of Transportation explains. â??Our plow trucks - the beat - (which is) the time is takes to return to that same spot, is between one and a half to two and a half hours. In a significant lake-effect snowstorm, where one band will just stay put, and give you four inches an hour, or five inches an hour, it becomes challenging. If the trucks were to return to that spot every hour, thereâ??s four inches of snow on the road.â??
The state has set aside $295 million for snow removal this year statewide. That money is broken up into fuel costs, the maintenance of the trucks themselves, the parts required, and even some municipal contracts for snow removal. However, easily the bulk of that money purely goes towards labor.
â??Weâ??re in snow readiness from November 1st, to April 1st, and weâ??re that way 24/7. So, we have crews ready to go, two shifts, regular eight hour shifts, they can stay an extra four hours before the next crew comes on. So you could have coverage around the clock if necessary.â??