National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Winter 2004 - 2005 


Winter Season 2004-2005 Snowfall

The Winter of 2004-05 was late, long, but not severe. Snowfall was generally slightly above normal across the west, except much above normal over Niagara and Orleans counties.  There was less snow than usual over areas east of Lake Ontario, especially across the Tug Hill which received their lowest totals in the ten years of the network. Lake effect was limited, and generally of a northwesterly flow, often "enhanced" and evolved out of several moderate synoptic falls. There were few storms of interest, including Buffalo's Christmas Eve's lake snow, Rochester's synoptic lake enhanced snow in late January, the general snow to start March, and the late season storm of the first week of April.  Here are the monthly details…

NOVEMBER  2004    

The 2004-05 winter season got off to a very slow start as November was quite mild and snowfree across most of western and central New York. Snow was restricted to two occasions, both following cold frontal passages, on 8-9th and again on 25-26th. Several inches fell over portions of Oswego county and over "ski country" of southern Erie and northern Chautauqua and northern Cattaraugus counties on each event. Monthly totals were generally 2 inches or less, with up to 8-12 inches in those specified areas.

DECEMBER  2004    

December was a changeable month across the region but averaged out with near normal temperatures and precipitation. All areas received some snowfall, with the typical maxima along the ridges east and southeast of Lake Erie and from northern Oswego county to the Tug Hill. The first two weeks were generally mild, but did include some lake enhanced snows following a cold front on 3-4th. The season’s first major lake effect event ("Apple") blitzed areas southeast of Lake Erie on 13-14th with up to 20” along the ridges, but only a few inches nearer the lake. 6-12 inches also fell off Ontario from eastern Wayne to Oswego counties. Winter set in from 18-27th and this included another major lake effect event on Christmas Eve which dropped 6-12 inches off both lakes, including the Buffalo and Watertown areas. A rarer northeast flow lake effect dropped 3 to 7 inches off Ontario from Niagara to Rochester on 26-27th. The month ended very mild and wet however with bare ground. Monthly totals ranged from 40 to 60 inches along the Erie ridges and across a small portion of northern Oswego county and southern Tug Hill. Amounts dropped off significantly  away from these areas, to near 20 inches in the Buffalo area, 15 around Rochester, and 10 or less over the mid Genesee and Allegheny basins.

JANUARY  2005    

January was a most interesting and varied month across our region. It really tended to extremes, as the first 13 days were among the warmest ever in January, some 12-14 degrees above normal daily, while the next two weeks completely turned the tables and averaged some 10-12 degrees too cold, a 25 degree temp swing! Buffalo for example, had its greatest temperature range ever in January, from 68 to -6! As for snow, most of the region had slightly above normal snowfall for the month, but again it was focused mostly in the two weeks period 14-27th.
There were several minor snowfalls during the mild first two weeks, although up to 8" fell across the Southern Tier on 5-6th. The incredible warmth on the 12-13th pretty much cleared all the snow from the ground. Winter really set in after the big turnaround on the 14th though, and some snow fell every single day until the 27th.  Again, most of the daily snowfalls were fairly light, but there were a few exceptions. Very cold arctic air continued to spill into the region from the north and set up some unusual lake enhancement off Lake Ontario from Niagara to Monroe counties on the 16-17th when up to 12-18" fell, with only a few inches elsewhere as a clipper passed to our south. Another Clipper brought  a few inches areawide on 19th but was enhanced by a southwest wind in the immediate Buffalo area which caught 6-8". The most significant event of the month was the major clipper which passed to our south on 22nd and bombed out into New England's blizzard with over 3 feet and high winds there. In our area we received a general 5 to 10 inches, but once again Lake Ontario enhanced the activity with up to 18" in the Rochester area. The last clipper of the month dropped an inch or two on the 26th but up to 4 inches around Buffalo with more lake enhancement. The last five days of the month settled down with no precipitation and moderating temperatures.   Monthly totals ranged up to 5 feet or more on the ridges back from Lake Erie in the southern tier, with 4 feet common in the Rochester area. Two to three feet fell elsewhere, including the Buffalo area, although northern Jefferson county again was short, with less than  a foot falling for the month. One anomaly is the lack of snow on the Tug Hill. There have been no real major synoptic storms yet and flow has been mostly northerly and not westerly, so that area is missing out on its usual lake effect quota, so far.  

FEBRUARY   2005  

As is often the case in western and central New York, February was a rather quiet and uneventful month in the snow department. With Lake Erie mainly frozen, lake effect potential was very limited, although there were several "upslope" type events along the ridges on the western southern tier. There were two significant events southeast of Lake Ontario on 12th and 17-18th with a foot or more across Oswego county.
The month began with a week of dry mild weather. Rain on the 8th was followed by 2-6" of wet snow, then major lake snows on 12th,  but mild and rainy again on 14th.  A general snowfall on 16th ushered in a very cold regime for the rest of the month with small daily snowfalls. The month ended with the start of a significant synoptic event which lasted through the first couple days of March.   Monthly totals were near normal, generally 16-26 inches across the Buffalo and Rochester metros, slightly less over the mid Genesee and St. Lawrence valleys as usual, and more over higher elevations of southern tier and Tug Hill, but even those areas had only normal snowfall at best.

MARCH  2005    

March began with perhaps the most widespread general snowfall of the season, which evolved into lake effect by the 2-3rd and then ended. Three day totals ranged up to 8-14 inches with greatest amounts near Lake Ontario . This continued the trend of the last two winters with Niagara and Orleans counties receiving unusually heavy amounts. A minor lake effect episode on 4th over Oswego county was followed by a bit of rain on 7-8th then a more significant lake episode on 9-10th which affected areas from the Monroe County lakeshore to Oswego County. The month then settled down into a cold and dry regime for the next couple of weeks. The strengthening March sun sublimated and gradually melted the winter snowpack with no flooding. A bit of precipitation on 23-24th was followed by a pattern shift into mild and dry weather for the final week. Monthly snowfall was near to slightly above normal for March.  

APRIL  2005

April was a very interesting month. The bulk of it featured some of the most pleasant weather ever seen in April here with two full weeks of constant sunshine, mild temperatures and rainfree conditions. However, this was flanked by two huge major synoptic storms, the first on 2-3rd dropped 2 feet of snow on Chautauqua County and 6-8 inches of wet snow in the Buffalo area but nothing east of Batavia, and the second on 23-25th which was very similar but about 100 miles further west, dumping over a foot on greater Cleveland, and a couple inches over Chautauqua but little anywhere else in WNY, a close call!