A mild winter has kept Lake Erie from freezing over but there is still a chance the free flowing waters could ice over.
According to Meteorologist Jim Mitchell of the National Weather Service Station in Buffalo, Lake Erie was 36 degrees Thursday, although during a normal year it would already be frozen.
"The lake should be frozen. The average freeze date is Jan. 21, but we're not there at this point," He said in a phone interview.
OBSERVER Photo by Matt Panebianco
It’s possible Lake Erie could freeze over this weekend, but the later it gets into February, the less likely this will happen.
However, he said there is still a possibility of a freeze before spring truly arrives.
"There is still a chance that it will freeze, but as the year goes on and the sun gets higher and the weather is more back and forth, there is less and less of a chance it will freeze. There could be some ice in sheltered areas, especially this weekend when it will get colder," Mitchell explained.
He said that although it is uncommon, there have been several instances where the lake has frozen after the beginning of February.
"There is still a chance the lake could freeze. In 1937 the lake didn't freeze until March 7. That looks like the latest date, but since then there are about 10 dates when the lake has frozen after Feb. 9, but there is less of a chance as time goes on," he said.
Mitchell explained that while Lake Erie remains unfrozen Western New York could get lake effect snow.
"By this time the lake effect should be shut off. The wind running across the lake should not be able to pick up moisture. It's like having dry land to the west, but since the lake is not frozen we still have this potential for lake effect, like we will see this weekend. The lake is still open so there is still a chance for a big lake effect event. This could help make up our snow fall," he explained.
He reported that the snowfall this year has only measured in at 24.6 inches at the Buffalo airport - that is 42.3 inches less than the 66.9 inch average.
However, although we are lacking for snow, precipitation rates are just about average.
"Snowfall is down but for precipitation we are not really down, even though there hasn't been snow we have gotten enough rain so we are actually 7/10th of an inch above average for precipitation. The rivers are flowing at a level they should be and there haven't been any drought conditions reported," Mitchell said.
Although lake effect is predicted for this weekend, there are some benefits of the lake remaining unfrozen.
Julius Leone, Chautauqua County Coordinator of Emergency Services, explained that annual spring ice-jam flooding in places like Sunset Bay can only be helped by the lack of ice.
"It can only help without the lake being frozen and the creeks are not frozen either. So, It looks like we are in great shape for ice jams in Sunset Bay. As far as I know none of the creeks are frozen now but even if we do get ice in the creeks having the lake open can only help. When we have ice jams a problem we face is getting the ice to flow freely and when the lake is frozen it can backup, so its a good thing," Leone explained.
Leone added he hopes the mild weather will hold out.
"I hope we don't get enough cold to make a difference," he said.
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