Chances are growing for a "major winter storm" this weekend, but the finer details are yet to be defined.
"There is a risk for heavy accumulating snow with strong winds," the National Weather Service posted in its hazardous weather outlook.
Western New York dodged a significant snowstorm last weekend. The storm dropped as much as a foot or more of snow across parts of a broad swath of territory between Kansas City and Washington, D.C.
As forecasts hone in on the details of expected snowfall for the weekend, models suggest the track of this storm will again pass the Buffalo Niagara region to the south, but the snowfall won't.
EPS continues to dish out a blockbuster winter storm for the Great Lakes and Northeast this weekend. These are remarkably high odds for areas see 6"+ of snowfall this weekend. Also remarkable that the modeled track has not changed very much at all, all considered. pic.twitter.com/w2k9FBPE2r
— John Kassell (@JPKassell) January 15, 2019
"Models do show considerable amount of moisture being pulled northward into the system," the weather service said. "With most of the model guidance suggesting we will be well on the cold side of the system, widespread accumulating snow is expected likely starting late in the day Saturday into a good portion of Sunday."
Weather models were coming into agreement that "the peak of the storm" was expected Saturday night as a deepening low tracks just south of the Buffalo Niagara region across the length of Pennsylvania toward New England, the weather service said.
Steady moderate to heavy snow is expected overnight Saturday and could also include some lake enhancement, the weather service said.
Forecasters said Tuesday that overall confidence still wasn't high enough for storm watches and warnings yet, but they could come.
What's certain is that snow is coming. The weather service pegged the chances for snow Saturday and Saturday night at 100 percent.
What isn't as surefire is how severe the storm will be. Forecasters said that will be dictated by how various atmospheric dynamics set up around the time of its arrival, and the track of the storm.
Forecasters added that lake-effect implications could also set up on the back side of the system as Arctic air rushes through the region behind the passing system. The weather service said that factor alone should keep the intensity of the snowfall up, even on Sunday.
Because temperatures will be so cold – with highs only in the low teens on Sunday – the snow will be light. That could complicate travel.
"With strong winds of 15 to 30 mph likely, there should be extensive blowing and drifting," the weather service said. "If the storm plays out as the consensus of the models are suggesting, travel on Sunday will be difficult, if not impossible in some areas."
In the meantime, the balance of the week will be the most consistently wintry of the season.
Chances for some snow are in today's forecast, but little accumulation is forecast.
Daytime highs will reach into the low 30s but it will be breezy, keeping wind chill values largely in the mid- to upper teens, the weather service said.
Snow showers become likely overnight. Less than 1 inch of snow is possible in metro Buffalo, the weather service said. Overnight lows are expected near 30 degrees. Breezy conditions are forecast to remain. Winds could gust over 30 mph.
A cold front trailing an area of low pressure to the north should cross the region overnight.
"A brief period of moderate snow is likely Wednesday morning northeast of (Lake Erie and Lake Ontario) before moving east and then southeast of the lakes by Wednesday afternoon," the weather service said.
Another one-half inch of snow or so is possible in metro Buffalo with a couple of inches possible in the higher terrain, forecasters said.
Wednesday's highs are forecast in the mid-30s early in the day but will start a rapid downward descent after noon. Overnight, temperatures are forecast to drop into the lower teens as a northerly flow builds behind the cold front.