It’s starting to look more and more like the Capital Region may be in for its biggest snowstorm of the winter on Friday, experts say.
“Confidence is building that a heavy snowfall will occur,” said Kevin Lipton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.
Earlier Wednesday, a winter storm watch was issued by the National Weather Service, indicating up to nine inches of snow could fall, starting Friday morning. But the weather service’s computer models Wednesday evening were showing more snow from a coastal storm coming from the mid-Atlantic states mixing with a colder Alberta Clipper out of the Great Lakes.
The new models indicate the Capital Region could see between 10 and 14 inches of snow between Friday morning and Saturday morning. The heaviest snow will fall Friday afternoon and evening, with one to two inches per hour possible during this period, Lipton said.
School districts in the region were changing their schedules, so basketball and hockey games planned for Friday night will be played tonight. The Saratoga Springs City School District’s boys freshman, junior varsity and varsity basketball games will be played at Saratoga Springs High School tonight, while the girls’ freshman, junior varsity and varsity games will be played tonight at Niskayuna. All of those games had been scheduled for Friday evening.
“I never count it until it hits the God-darned ground,” joked Chic Wilson, owner of the Willard Mountain Ski Center on Intervale Road in the town of Easton. “It’s what we need now. Last year was a non-winter, and this year it’s up and down.”
The cold weather over the past month has enabled Willard Mountain and other ski centers in the region and North Country to make snow and cover most of their trails. The region’s last big snow of the winter came just after Christmas, when between eight and 10 inches fell.
“That gave us a halfway decent Christmas vacation,” Wilson said.
Willard had 11 of its 14 trails open Wednesday. Two of those trails don’t have snowmaking equipment but could easily be opened if Friday’s storm brings a foot of snow.
“If we get 10 to 12 inches, we will be at full strength,” Wilson said.
Lipton of the National Weather Service said he and his colleagues would like to see one more computer model of the storm today. If this model continues to show more snow coming, the current watch will be changed to a winter storm warning, with increased snowfall numbers added.
As the storm coming up the East Coast merges with the Alberta Clipper coming from the west, the storm will become a classic Nor’easter, Lipton said. Nor’easters have traditionally brought the largest snowfalls to the Capital Region in February and March.
So far this season, total snowfall is between 16 and 17 inches below normal. As of Wednesday, only 19.7 inches of snow had fallen for the season, while the normal snowfall for this time of the year is 36.5 inches.
The weather service was predicting very cold temperatures — zero and below — overnight, with highs in the low 20s today.
When its starts snowing Friday, temperatures will remain in the 20s. Winds will pick up after the storm Saturday morning to 20 mph or more, blowing the snow into drifts, Lipton said.