LAKE EFFECT STORM "ALBATROSS"
December 20-21, 2001
Lake Flake scale: ** 2 Stars
Maximum Snowfall: Lk.Erie: (Frewsburg) 11"; Lk. Ontario (Montague) 24".
Duration: 36 Hours
Prime Feature: Synoptic evolution, marginal temps, good moisture and little shear.
After an unusually warm and dry autumn and early winter, our Lake-Effect season finally got underway with our first named storm about six weeks later than usual. This storm evolved from a synoptic feature, and in fact, was largely synoptic east of lake Ontario.
A cold front crossed the region late on 19th and early on 20th and slowed to a crawl over central New York as the upper trof stalled and a surface low formed just northeast of Lake Ontario. A deformation zone set up across Lewis County and dropped over a foot of snow during the day on 20th over the Tug Hill, while rain fell closer to Lake Ontario.
Over on Lake Erie, a strong westerly flow developed on the 20th, but several inches of wet snow fell at higher elevations before the lake effect machine really set up, so even this was synoptically related..
Finally, with a good northwest flow developing, bands of pure lake effect snow set up during Thursday evening (20th) and continued on into the 21st. The activity during the day on 21st gradually weakened as the cap lowered and daytime mixing occurred, and shut off during the evening. One unique feature were the unusually strong connections from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, not unusual for a northwest flow event..
Snowfall from this combined synoptic/lake effect event was very orographically related and was inversely proportional to the population. No snow fell at lake levels along Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, while a general 5 to 10 inches fell across interior sections of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and southern Wyoming counties. 12 to 24 inches fell on the Tug Hill, with 4 to 8 inches in the Black River Valley. But again, no snow fell at Oswego, while southeast Oswego county caught ten inches!
Virtually no snow fell over the Buffalo or Rochester metro areas.
This storm affected rural areas and caused few travel problems. It would normally be rated only one star, but being the first event of the season, and with up to two feet on the Tug, it earns a rating of (**) two stars.