As the Capital Region braces for what is predicted to be 12 to 18 inches of snow today and into Monday, the New York State Mesonet located at UAlbany is eager to show off what it can do for weather data collection.
Nick Bassill, a meteorologist who works for the $30 million Mesonet system, said the snow storm predicted for Sunday and Monday in the Capital Region has the potential to be the biggest recorded by the Mesonet’s system of 126 data collection points, which are each located about 20 miles apart, with at least one in all 62 counties of New York State, plus the boroughs of New York City. The solar-powered sites collect data including air temperature, soil temperature and moisture levels, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, solar radiation, and will provide snowfall totals in real time to the National Weather Service.
Bassill said prior to the creation of the Mesonet, meteorologists had to rely on human beings to measure snow with rulers at different points throughout the state. He said human beings in certain instances could be more accurate than the automated data collection system, like when there is snow drift from wind near the sensors, but the Mesonet will be much faster.
“The good thing about our network is we’re collecting that snowfall data every five minutes, so we can give you a real-time estimate of what the snow depth is,” Bassill said.
Each of the 126 weather data collection points is also equipped with a real time video camera, which anyone with access to the internet can view at nysmesonet.org.
Bassill said the system has already been useful in helping areas hit by flooding by providing data that can used in applications for federal disaster relief funding. He said the information should also be useful for the New York State Department of Transportation when it makes decisions about where to allocate snowplowing and road salting resources.
Greater Capital Region Mesonet stations are located in Glens Falls, Edinburg, Schuylerville, Ballston Spa, Schaghticoke, Johnstown, Oppenheim, Sprakers, Duanesburg, Voorheesville, Cobleskill, Medusa and Schodack.
As of Saturday night, the National Weather Service in Albany is predicting that a winter storm traveling over the central part of the U.S. is going to continue to push eastward during the day Sunday and Monday.
“In the meantime, as this main system pushes its way east, a secondary low [pressure system] is going to form off the Northeast coast, and that is basically going to cause the storm to sit over the area for a good part of Monday bringing some pretty decent snow into the Capital Region,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Brett Rathbun.
Rathbun said Schenectady County, Albany County, Saratoga County, Schoharie County, Montgomery County and Fulton County can all expect about a foot of snow, with the highest snowfall for the Capital Region predicted for southern Schenectady County.
In anticipation of the snowfall, Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa issued a snow emergency set to start at 9 p.m. on Sunday, which means no parking will be allowed on city streets until the emergency is lifted.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he’s never declared a snow emergency during his time as mayor, and he doesn’t know if ever will, at least until after storm is over.
“If I declared one, then we’d also have to staff it,” he said.
McCarthy explained that the problem with a snow emergency for the city of Schenectady isn’t money but staffing. He said Schenectady only has so many DPW personnel available to staff 24-hour snow plow shifts, which would make preemptively declaring a snow emergency problematic. He said Schenectady automatically institutes parking bans for priority streets as soon as there are three inches of snow.
These are the streets where parking is banned after three inches of snowfall:
• Van Vranken Avenue
• Nott Street (Erie Boulevard to Wendell Avenue)
• Union Street
• Eastern Avenue
• Brandywine Avenue (State Street to Rugby Road)
• McClellan Street (State Street to Rugby Road)
• State Street
• Erie Boulevard (State Street to I-890)
• Albany Street (Veeder Avenue to Elm Street)
• Altamont Avenue
• Schuyler Street (Michigan Avenue to Altamont Avenue)
• Michigan Avenue
• Crane Street
• Chrisler Avenue
• Broadway (State Street to the city line)
• Campbell Avenue (Broadway to Fairview Avenue)
National Grid issued a news release Saturday stating the company is preparing line, service and tree workers to respond if the weather impacts electricity service. The company advises people who witness downed lines should immediately report the information to National Grid at 1-800-867-5222 or by calling 911.
National Grid advises power customers looking for real time power outage information to log onto www.nationalgridus.com/Upstate-NY-Home/Storms-Outages/Outage-Central.