(TNS) - Syracuse, N.Y. — National Weather Service forecasters offered a grim message today for emergency managers in Central New York and Southern Tier: Be prepared for major flooding on Christmas Day as snow melts rapidly and heavy rains pour down.
“We are starting to get concerned here about our flood potential,” said Dave Nicosia, a senior meteorologist in the weather service’s Binghamton office. “The projected amounts of rainfall are more than we expected yesterday, and we are still going to see a significant amount of snow melt.”
Nicosia said it’s likely that there will flooding along creeks and rivers, including the Susquehanna and the Upper Delaware. Creeks would flood quickly, but rivers might not crest until late Christmas Day or Saturday.
The flooding is a combination of a rapid warmup Thursday that will melt the heavy snow that fell a week ago. The snow pack around Binghamton, which got 40 inches of snow last week, holds several inches of water. Two to 4 inches of rain on top of that could cause severe flooding.
“If all the snow melts and we get 2 or 3 inch inches of rain,” Nicosia said, “this could be pretty bad.”
Flash flood watches are in effect for the Southern Tier and virtually of Upstate New York east of I-81 for Thursday night into Friday morning. Forecasters aren’t as worried about Syracuse and Western New York because there’s less snow on the ground there.
The problems will start Thursday afternoon as temperatures climb sharply into the 40s and 50s, and the rain begins to fall. Strong winds will develop too, which helps drive the warm rain into the snow and melt it faster.
There were two small bits of good news in Nicosia’s briefing today: High winds are likely to peak at 40 mph instead of the 50 mph forecast yesterday, so the chance of power outages is lower. And temperatures won’t plunge as quickly Christmas morning as expected earlier, so the odds of ice-covered streets and sidewalks is lower, too.
That cold air will arrive, though, and it could still lead to dangerously icy roads later on Christmas Day. In addition, strong west winds could produce heavy lake effect snow on Tug Hill and in Western New York.
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