WINTER 2003 - 04
overall winter was long but not particularly harsh...in fact January was
the only truly severe month and included the bulk of the snowfall. There
were few synoptic storms but a preponderance of northwest flow
events...especially during January which featured near constant snows
during the middle and latter portion of the month. This resulted in near
record snowfalls in Oswego County and well above normal amounts along
the lakeshore west to the Rochester area.
The winter began slowly with a mild November and December,
and ended with a quiet February and March. There was a single major synoptic event
in March but otherwise little. Overall, snowfall totals were very close
to normal across western areas...with maximum along the ridges back from
Lake Erie and on across the higher elevations of southern Erie and
Wyoming counties where 150-200 inches fell. Amounts dropped off fairly
rapidly in all directions from this max...as is usually the case...but
still averaged 80 inches near Olean and 110 inches around Jamestown.
Much less fell along the Lake Erie shore with about 70 inches from all
three spotters in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area. This highlights once again
the incredible variation in Chautauqua county from lakeshore to inland
areas. Snowfall was close to average in the Buffalo area with around 100
inches inland but 70-80 inches in the city and north towns. Niagara
county received near to slightly above normal snowfall in the 60-70 inch
range...again mainly due to the frequency of light to moderate snows in
east...the Rochester area experienced an unusually sharp gradient in
snowfall from 90 inches or so near the Thruway to about 150 inches along
the lakeshore...again due to the preponderance of northwest flow lake
effect in January. The mid Genesee valley and Finger lakes had somewhat
less...but the 70-90 inches was still a bit above normal there. Oswego
county was the champion though...and this all due to an incredible
January (see monthly writeup below). Sections of central Oswego county
even edged out to Tug Hill for most snow for the season...just under 300
inches...first time this has happened in the ten years of our network.
The Tug Hill actually had less than usual because of the northwest flow
rather than west...as "only"
200-250 inches fell over most of it...about 70 inches less than usual!
Amounts dropped off drastically to the north with less than 70 inches at
Watertown and only 40-50" in the St. Lawrence Valley.
Again, the pattern was typical of a northwest flow regime
with few synoptic events. This also explains the dearth of snowfall for our Canadian
friends as well...with most of the Niagara peninsula and up across the
Golden Horseshoe to Toronto catching only 40-50 inches for the season.
Monthly details follow....
was a fairly mild and wet month across the region. Snowfall was near to
somewhat below normal. Totals ranged over a foot only at higher
elevations of the southern tier and across the Tug Hill with a maximum
of 24" at N. Osceola. Buffalo and Rochester had less snow than
were three snow events, two of them upslope and only one real lake
effect. Storms on the 15th
and 28th featured wraparound snows from departing lows. and
were highly elevation oriented with several inches, while lower
elevations had little or none. Up to a foot fell near Ellicottville on
the 29th. A brief but intense southwest lake effect (Anthracite) dropped locally 5-10
inches of snow along a narrow path southeast of Buffalo on 24-25th.
And...3 to 6 inches fell locally around Rochester on the 29th
as well in some wraparound lake enhanced snow.
though, a fairly tame start to the 03-04 winter season.
was a month of two faces across the region. The first half was cold and
snowy...but this led to an unusually mild and dry second half. Snowfall
amounts were impressive, but a bit deceiving as they melted off quickly.
The month end with bare ground across western areas and just a thin
cover on the Tug Hill east of Lake Ontario.
month began with the region escaping a huge nor'easter
which roared up the coast and set records in many cities on 5-6th. Our
first lake effect event dropped up to a foot along the south shore of
Lake Ontario on 11-12th...this having a good connection from the upper
lakes. A second nor'easter
passed further inland on 14th and was close enough to dump
over a foot across areas east of the Genesee river with 20 inch totals
common across Lewis and Oswego counties. Lesser amounts fell further
west with just 4 inches in the Buffalo area.
synoptic storm moved north east of our area on 17th with
several inches east of the Genesee and a bit of lake effect in the
Buffalo area, followed by more lake snows on a northwest flow on
19-20th. The pattern then turned mild..with one exception...a brief but
intense southwest lake effect event on Christmas Day in the immediate
snow totals topped 40 inches over Oswego and Lewis counties and
gradually trended down to less than 20 inches near Lake Erie and less
than 10 inches north of Buffalo. Ski areas of western New York received
healthy totals...but mild weather over the holidays limited activity.
a mild first few days, January abruptly turned into a harsh bitterly
cold month across the entire region. A persistent west to northwest flow
prevailed...right out of the arctic. It was the coldest month in ten
years and the fourth coldest January in the last 50. And...as is usually
the case with a cold month in western and central New York, the lake
effect machine was in high gear...off Lake Erie during the first half of
the month (until it froze), and Lake Ontario all month.
fell virtually every day of the month from the 4th on. There
were few synoptic storms of interest...the vast majority of the snow
resulted from lake effect and although most daily amounts were trivial,
they added up to well above normal levels everywhere.
most significant synoptic event of the month was the "Alberta
which dropped southeast across the Lower Lakes and intensified over
western New York late on 11th...dropping 8-10 inches in the
Buffalo area and 4-6 inches east to the Genesee Valley. There were four
major lake effect events...the first on 6-9th was a long lasting intense
one which dropped over a foot over a large area south of Buffalo and
from Oswego county all the way back to the Rochester area. The second
was a moderate event which dropped 1 to 2 feet on the western southern
tier and again from the Monroe county lakeshore to Oswego county on
18-21st. Then...two intense events focused on Oswego and Cayuga
counties...the one on 22-24th which dropped 3 feet on Fulton...and the
final one on 28-31st which dropped an astounding 86 inches over Parish
and well over 4 feet over a large portion of the county!
totals ranged from 120 to 160 inches over Oswego County, among the
highest ever recorded for a month, and touched 100 inches over a few
spots along the ridges of the western southern tier from Sherman to
Perrysburg. Amounts approached 100 inches along the Monroe county
lakeshore (Hamlin, Charlotte-Greece) as well...the heaviest ever
recorded there! There was an unusually sharp gradient across the
Rochester area with amounts ranging from 40 inches near the thruway to
60 inches in the city to 80-100 inches near the lake. Further west, the
Buffalo area received a healthy 30-50 inches...but just about all in
small daily doses (aside from 11-12th). Niagara and Orleans counties
were unusually snowy as well...with usually snowfree Youngstown catching
their snowiest month ever at 37 inches.
Jefferson County, which avoided lake effect, received only 10 to 20
inches for the month. Aside from there though, the month ended with a
relatively deep and dense snowpack everywhere.
a drastic turnaround from January, February was a very quiet and dry month
across the entire region. Some snows fell the first week, especially east
of Lake Ontario and a bit more on 10-11th...but overall snowfall was well
below normal and gave the region a break from the previous month. There
were no major events at all, synoptic or lake effect. Total monthly snow
topped two feet only on the Tug Hill...with one to two feet in the
snowbelts of the southern tier and southern Erie and Wyoming counties.
Less than 6 inches fell along the Lake Erie shore and in the
Buffalo-Niagara region. Snow cover was dense and substantial to start the
month, but sublimated and settled in an orderly fashion through the month
and was below normal by month's
began with the tranquility of February with a mild and snowless first
week, but it did turn quite wintry at mid month before ending on a
springlike note once again. The month averaged 3 to 6 degrees warmer than
usual but snowfall was near to slightly above normal. This was almost
entirely the result of a major synoptic storm which dumped a general 8 to
14 inches across all of western New York, from north to south, on the 16th
and early 17th. Less fell east of Lake Ontario. For most areas,
this was actually the heaviest fall of the winter. It caused few problems
however as it was well forecasted and fell mainly during a Tuesday
evening. It melted away quickly the next few days. There was little snow
aside from this event during the month over most areas...but there were
exceptions...notably the higher elevations of the western southern tier
and the Tug Hill. Both these areas received significant snows on the
12-13th and again 21-22nd, much due to orographic effects along with some
lake effect in the first event. Monthly snowfall totals averaged 12 to 20
inches most areas, a bit more in the aforementioned snowbelts and less
north of Watertown...which really had a snow drought this winter.
first week was wintry and did include snow...notably on the 4th
when 2 to 5 inches fell across most areas. A bit more fell over higher
elevations of the southern tier and Wyoming county.
An estimated total will be added to each station to account for
this and for a more accurate season total. Real Spring weather arrived at