The runners on Santa’s sleigh may actually be put to good use this year.
Meteorologists are predicting a white Christmas — something the Capital Region hasn’t seen since 2009.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to be the up-to-your-knees, get-the-snowshoes-out, snowbanks-you-can’t-see-over sort of white Christmas, but according to weather experts, it should be just enough to provide that Bing Crosby-style ambience that many in our area have been dreaming of.
“All of our hopes are going to hinge on a very weak little storm that will come through just in the nick of time,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel, who predicted that the weather event will begin tonight.
Tom Wasula, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, predicts that the quick-moving system will bring an accumulation of between 1 and 3 inches of snow to the region by Christmas morning.
“Accumulation” isn’t a weather word that’s been batted around much so far this winter. Despite a dusting here and there, snowflakes have been few and far between.
At the Albany International Airport, a grand total of 0.8 inch of snow has fallen so far this season, which is even less than what had fallen by this time last year — the year of the snow drought. In fact, right now, the Capital Region is lagging behind last year’s snowfall total by 5.6 inches. It’s also 10.9 inches behind the region’s annual snowfall average for this point in the winter, according to Wasula.
The probability that area residents will wake up to at least a 1-inch-thick blanket of white on Tuesday is between 50 and 60 percent, Wasula said. Those looking for better odds can make a Christmas trip to Marquette, Mich., or International Falls, Minn., where the probability is near 100 percent, according to The Weather Channel. A little bit closer to home, Caribou, Maine, has a 97 percent chance of a white Christmas.
The best bet in New York state is Watertown, which has a 76 percent chance, according to climatologist Samantha Borisoff of Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science.
The snow slated to blanket the East Coast by Christmas morning won’t put a huge damper on holiday travel, Samuhel predicted. It will be enough to cause slippery roads and minor delays, but should not accumulate on airport runways, he said.
“If anybody’s going to get accumulating snow out of this storm, it’s going to be Boston,” he projected.
Snow lovers got more than they bargained for here in the Capital Region on Christmas of 2002, when close to 20 inches of snow fell. That was the greatest amount ever to fall from midnight Christmas Eve to midnight Christmas Day, at least since the National Weather Service started tracking that sort of thing back in 1884, Wasula said.
The biggest snow event on record that included Dec. 25 stretched on for three days back in 1969, when 26.4 inches of snow buried Albany, beginning on Christmas Day.
No epic storms are in the long-range forecast, but Wasula said a bigger storm system is headed our way Wednesday into Thursday, which could bring snow and mixed precipitation. Saturday into Sunday, even more snow could be coming.
The Farmers’ Almanac, which has been predicting the weather since 1818, also says there’s a good chance of snow for Christmas, and has also flagged a few dates when large snowstorms are expected this winter: Feb. 12 through 15 and March 20 through 23.
Although the snow in our area is still mainly just shading on a forecast map, shoppers are stocking up on snow gear in anticipation of upcoming accumulation.
At Alpin Haus in Clifton Park, sales of winter sports supplies are picking up, said salesman Rich Vokatis.
“If anything, I’m seeing a lot bigger trend on the snowboard side of things,” he said.
Kids’ winter gear is also selling well, he noted.
Cold-weather clothing is the hot ticket at The Alpine Sport Shop in Saratoga Springs. Co-owner Cathy Hay said it’s selling more quickly than hard goods like skis and ice skates.
“I think that people kind of hold off until that snow flies to really make their decisions, so we’re waiting for Mother Nature,” she said.