Santa Claus and his reindeer may rely on radar to get to Capital Region homes before Christmas morning as the first Christmas snowstorm in nearly a decade will be blowing into the region overnight.
While Santa will have Rudolph's red nose and other reindeer to help his sleigh through turbulent skies, those of us who don't rely on a chimney for ingress and egress need to be prepared to shovel, snowblow and drive carefully during the storm — and after, as high winds are expected.
Municipal and private plow crews, who already put in a long day Friday, can look forward to another long day — even though it may come with holiday pay.
The National Weather Service in Albany is forecasting a Christmas Day storm that will start after midnight early Monday and be largely wrapped up in terms of snowfall by mid-morning, leaving a widespread 4 to 6 inches of snow across the region, meteorologist Christina Speciale said. But in its wake, high winds in the afternoon could cause blowing and drifting snow, the kind that makes driving difficult.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late Sunday officially cautioned drivers about travel conditions on Christmas, especially since lake effect weather will significantly contribute to snow totals west and north of the Capital Region.
"This holiday weekend, I urge everyone traveling to use extra caution and be prepared for hazardous weather," Cuomo said. "Give yourself some extra time to get where you're going, let someone know when you leave and when you are expected to arrive, and monitor weather and travel conditions to avoid lengthy delays or dangerous situations."
He said the state Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority will have hundreds of plow trucks and sanders/salters ready to deploy to keep roads open.
The last time there was an official "white Christmas" in Albany — a measurable 1 inch or more of snow on the ground Christmas morning — was in 2009, Speciale said.
"Between the city of Saratoga Springs and Albany there will be a general 4 to 6 inches," she said Sunday. "It's a system that's coming in from the Midwest. It's impacting Chicago today. It will be here between late this evening through mid- to late [Christmas] morning. It's a fast-moving storm."
Areas north of Saratoga Springs are under a winter storm warning, while those to the south are under a winter weather advisory.
"The thing to worry about after the storm is the extreme winds," Speciale said. "They will be up to 50 mph. The 4 to 6 inches of snow could potentially be blowing around and recovering cleared surfaces. It will definitely affect driving."
Beyond Christmas Day, the forecast calls for the region to see the coldest air of the season: By Thursday and Friday, daytime highs are expected to be in the teens, with nighttime temperatures dropping below zero.