National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Winter 2005 - 2006 


Winter Season 2005-2006 Snowfall

The Winter of 2005-06 was a fairly benign one across western and central New York. Snowfall was well below normal across much of the region as there was a near complete absence of synoptic (general) snowfalls. The Lake effect machine was quite active though, primarily during two periods, late November to mid December, and through mid and late February. There were actually 13 lake effect "events" for the winter (normal is nine), but most were fairly modest. They repeatedly focused on the typical snowbelt areas off both Lakes (even Erie in Feb which usually freezes but saw little ice this winter). These were the only real wintry periods of the winter however, as the six week period from Christmas on into early February was one of the mildest and most open we have ever seen, with ground bare at lower elevations most of the time. January was the mildest in at least 56 years. March turned out quite mild as well, and the region saw an unusually early end to its snow season, with the last general fall being on March 2, and April virtually snowless. 

Season snowfall totals usually vary significantly across our region, but they featured some remarkable disparity this winter. Totals neared 200 inches in the Erie snowbelts along the Chautauqua ridge and ski country, but dropped sharply to just 50-60 inches along the lakeshore of Chautauqua county.  They also dropped from a near average 110 inches in the Jamestown area to less than 60 inches from Olean to Wellsville. 

The Buffalo area had a generally easy winter, aside from an intense early lake snow across the South Towns in mid November. The city and north suburbs only received 50 to 60 inches, with amounts gradually increasing to near 100 inches across the South Towns. There was only one fall over 5 inches at the airport, and the North Towns never even saw a 4-inch-plus fall all winter. Snowblowers gathered rust and the ground was bare much of the time. 

To the north, even less snow fell. Much of Niagara and Orleans counties caught less than 40 inches, with some spots near Lake Ontario never even seeing a 3 inch fall! The Rochester area saw little, with most of Monroe county catching 40 to 60 inches, with largest fall in the 3 to 5 inch range! The official airport numbers were a bit higher but still well below normal. Little fell over the mid Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes but typically higher totals were reported from the Bristol Hills. 

We did have some decent numbers off our other Lake, with Oswego county and the Tug Hill catching near normal amounts of 100 to 200 inches. There was a strip of heavier snow over the northern Tug, with Barnes Corners and Hooker maxing out with over 250 inches, with typically snowier Highmarket and N. Osceola catching a bit less. Amounts dropped off over Jefferson county, but Watertown did catch some heavy snows in late November and early December lake effect.  

Here are your monthly details,


What a wild and crazy month! The 2005-06 Season started out with a bang, as we were treated to just about everything Mother Nature had to offer in November. The month’s first half featured several windstorms and out of season thunderstorms, but also continued the six month trend of much warmer than normal temperatures. The pattern changed big time upon the passage of a very sharp cold front during the 16th, near record temperatures close to 70 at dawn were replaced by our first real lake effect storm by that evening. The last two weeks were generally cold but very changeable. We had our coldest Thanksgiving Day in 100 years with afternoon temps in teens, but 48 hours later we had record highs once again. As for snowfall, there were two major events, the one on 16-17th which smothered Buffalo's South Towns with 12-18 inches of heavy wet snow, while leaving the city dry. Sizeable amounts were also observed over the Tug Hill east of Lake Ontario. Some minor lake snows fell along the south shore of Lake Ontario in the 21-23rd period. The Thanksgiving cold wave resulted in another major event, this time on a more southwest flow off Lake Ontario which gave Watertown 12-18 inches. The Lake Erie activity focused on ski country but then lifted north across metro Buffalo late on 25th with 6-10 inches. But, record warmth and rain melted all the snow by month's end Monthly totals were near normal outside of  lake effect areas with just a few inches from the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes region as well as Niagara County, but totals were above normal in areas which experienced Lake Effect. It was Buffalo's second snowiest November in 15 years.

DECEMBER 2005   

December roared into western New York with frigid temperatures and frequent lake snows. Its first two weeks averaged ten degrees colder than normal, and when you combine this with our warm early season lakes, you really crank up the lake effect machine. We had no less than six lake effect "events" during the first 19 days, with most of them focusing on the same areas, eastern and northern Oswego county and the Tug Hill east of Lake Ontario, and the snowbelt ridges back from Lake Erie from Chautauqua to far southern Erie county. Events on 2-3rd, 6-7th, and 19-20th dropped upwards of two feet in these areas, while little fell elsewhere.  There was little synoptic weather in our region this month. We did get some nickel and dime minor snows, and some mixed precipitation on 15-16th. There was a nasty windstorm following a frontal passage on 9th with blowing snow which disrupted rush hour traffic in the Buffalo area. The pattern changed drastically after the 20th however, as we came under a Pacific zonal flow. Temperatures rose well above normal for the final third of the month, and the snow cover gradually eroded away. Many areas did not have a white Christmas for first time since 1997. The month ended with bare ground over most of western New York and only a thin cover east of Lake Ontario. Monthly totals were highly variable, generally less than 20 inches outside lake areas, even under 10 inches in the mid Genesee Valley, but as much as 60-80 inches along the Chautauqua ridge southeast of Lake Erie. The "winner" was again the Tug Hill region with both Redfield and N. Osceola catching 117 inches! Amazingly though, Perrysburg (which received 83 inches snowfall) had only a trace left by month's end, and even the Tug had just over a foot.

JANUARY 2006    

What a month! January was the warmest in at least 56 years across the entire region, as we shared in the record warm January across the nation. The pacific flow which became established in late December held all month with the jet stream locked well north in Canada with arctic air remaining on the other side of the globe (Asia, Eastern Europe). As a result, our network experienced its most snow free January in the ten years of record and would have been even more remarkable if we didn't catch a nasty upslope wet snowstorm over higher elevations on the 24-26th. Otherwise, snow was pretty much restricted to minor falls at the end of rainstorms on 14th and 18th, and another upslope on 6-7th during a brief cool-down. Monthly totals ranged upwards of 24-30" along the ridges southeast of Lake Erie, but even this is well below the usual for January. The Tug Hill caught similar amounts. Elsewhere, totals were generally in the single digits, with Buffalo catching their 8th least in 100 years. The ground was bare most of the month. In fact, Buffalo's greatest snowdepth this month was one inch and has not had a two inch snowfall since Dec. 21! The month ended with bare ground everywhere except for the higher reaches of the Tug, with Lake Erie totally open.

FEBRUARY 2006    

After a mild first few days, winter returned to our region during February. The month featured very frequent but generally light daily snowfalls, but did include several significant lake effect events. The main weather players were two major storms which both moved up to our west and north, the first one on the 5th, the other on the 17th. Both of these storms were preceded and accompanied by very mild air and rain, then very strong winds. But, they were followed by surges of cold air and associated lake snows. An unusual feature of the February lake snows was the inclusion of Lake Erie in the equation. This lake is usually largely frozen in February but was wide open this year because of the previously mild winter, so locations east of Lake Erie also shared in the heavier snowfall. The major events were lake storms on 5-8th, 13-14th, and 17-21st, each of which dropped upwards of one to two feet in the typical snowbelts east of the lakes. Another unusual feature was the frequency of snows to focus on the northern Tug Hill rather than central and south, with Barnes Corners and Hooker catching double the snow of N. Osceola and Highmarket. The month's last week featured a continuation of light daily lake snows, with a rare 5" fall from Georgian Bay down into Buffalo’s eastern suburbs on 25th. In fact, measurable snow fell on 18 days this month at Buffalo and Rochester, but continued the trend of no major falls at each city. In fact, through February, Buffalo only has had one fall of 6" or more (back on Nov. 25) and Rochester none, but both cities were just 10-20% below normal for the entire season due to the high frequency of snowfall. Snow cover has been very thin and sporadic though.  February was the snowiest month of this mild winter season, with most spots at or somewhat above normal. Totals peaked at over 100” on the northern Tug, and were over 3 feet from Watertown to Oswego county. Across the west, 3 to 5 feet fell over snowbelt areas from the Chautauqua ridge to Wyoming county, with totals tapering off to north and south, down to less than a foot near Lake Ontario in Niagara County.

MARCH 2006

After a decent shot of synoptic snow over portions of the area on the second day of the month, March saw a return to the generally open winter of '05-06 with unusually paltry snowfall, especially in comparison to recent snowy Marches. Snowfall was below normal across all areas, substantially so from the Genesee Valley eastward. The only real snowfall of the month was on the 2nd, as a "Clipper" slid southeastwards from the Upper Lakes, clipping western and southern New York. There was a very sharp gradient from about the Buffalo area to Binghamton and all the way to Rhode Island. Areas southwest of this line caught 6 to 10 inches, while little or nothing fell from Niagara county to Rochester and Syracuse. Of note was the heavier snow in the Bristol Hills, up to a foot. This was only real synoptic event to affect western New York all winter! Aside from this event, monthly snowfall was restricted to a few inches of upslope snows on 13-14th across ski country and southern Tug Hill, and a marginal lake effect event on the southern Tug on 19-20th.  Monthly totals ranged upwards of a foot over higher elevations south of Buffalo but ranged downwards to just an inch or two from Niagara to Rochester. Even Oswego county and the Tug received unusually meager totals, well under a foot. And, areas from Watertown northward caught no snow all month! 

APRIL 2006

Unlike most recent years, April was very pleasant and saw virtually no wintry weather. The only snow was associated with a cold front and upper low on 4-5th with some briefly heavy wet snow showers which did not accumulate at lower elevations. There were a few inches overnight on 4-5th on higher ground in the typical snowbelts off both lakes, which melted quickly. The middle of the month was especially pleasant with daily sunshine and mild temperatures. Vegetation appeared to be a good week to ten days ahead of schedule.