National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Winter 1999 - 2000 

The winter was a generally mild and dry one across western and central New York. It began late and ended early...although it tried to make a comeback in early April.

Total snowfall was generally 30-50% below normal...except near normal in the Rochester area.

There were no real huge blizzards or general falls of a foot or more anywhere all winter...which is rather unusual. We did get the typical lake-effect storms...but even these were less frequent and intense than usual. A total of seven were tabulated...most affecting the typical snowbelt areas south of Buffalo and over the Tug Hill...but a couple of unusual ones did affect the greater Rochester area in late January and early February.

Winter was hesitant in starting...with a warm November and December...but there was a solid six-week period of real wintry conditions from mid January thru mid February. Temperatures were generally below normal through this stretch with frequent light to moderate synoptic snowfalls...a few of which were enhanced significantly by Lake Ontario on northwest flows in the Rochester area. The ground was snow covered for 42 consecutive days...the longest stretch at Buffalo and Rochester in the last four winters...and Rochester did receive over 50" of snow in this six-week period...but the largest fall was about 10".

The pattern broke during the third week of February with a remarkably warm final week melting all of the snow from the region and clearing most rivers and creeks of ice with few flooding problems. March was very mild and dry...the second warmest in 50 years...but there was one wintry stretch at mid month which included a couple of moderate synoptic snows. Lake Erie lost all its ice by the 24th...about 3 weeks earlier than usual.

Overall snowfall showed the typical distribution with maximums in the Tug Hill area east of Lake Ontario...where 150-200" fell...and along the ridge line southeast of Lake Erie from Sherman to Perrysburg to Springville to Warsaw...where 100-150 inches was reported. Still...these amounts are below normal even in these areas. Elsewhere....snowfall fell off drastically to the north and west...with much of metro Buffalo receiving less than 50 inches...and northern Jefferson County barely 40 inches. Our Canadian spotters reported only 30-40 inches across Niagara and Toronto areas. Little snow also fell across most of the Southern Tier with only 40-60" across much of Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The mid Genesee valley and Finger Lakes had typical 50-70 inch totals...with a significant increase across metro Rochester where a normal 80-110 inches fell.

Again, the most unusual aspect of the winter was the lack of major storms. Buffalo's largest snowfall was only about 5 inches...and there has not been a winter since 1980-81 without at least one fall of 6 inches or more. Buffalo had no more than 3 inches of lake-effect snow all winter...the rest was all synoptic. Even Rochester's largest fall was just 10 inches with several other falls in the 4-8 inch range.

Brief monthly recaps follow.....

Winter got off to a slow start across the region. There were only two real snowfalls...but each was significant in a narrow area. Overall though...snowfall was well below November normals as temperatures averaged well above normal. The first event was a lake effect episode on the 3rd...following soaking rains on the 2nd., 6-10 inches fell over the Chautauqua/Cattaraugus county ridges off Lake Erie and similar totals over the Tug Hill east of Lake Ontario. Mild weather followed and melted the snow in a few days. Most of the month was mild and dry thereafter...but a cold shot finally dropped down on a northwest flow with more Lake Effect on 29-30th...especially from Rochester southeast across the Finger Lakes region.

December's first half was once again unusually mild and dry with no real snow at all. The storm on the 14th dropped almost an inch of rain and was followed by a major lake effect storm on 16-17th which dropped a foot of snow over ski country south of Buffalo and over the Tug Hill. The pattern really changed on the 21st as cold air poured into the region and stayed for a week. This period featured almost daily snowfalls...with a couple of major lake effect events in the snowbelt areas...with a notable three feet in a narrow strip along the Oswego-Jefferson County line. Just enough around Buffalo and Rochester for a white Christmas...but northwest flow lake effect did drop up to 8 inches around the Flower city on the 27-28th. Monthly totals were near normal over the traditional snowbelt areas at 30 to 50 inches...but well below in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The snow this month was mostly of the Lake Effect variety. Mild weather returned as the century drew to a close.

January was a topsy-turvy month across western and central New York. We wondered if there ever would be any real winter as the first 12 days continued the trend of abnormally mild and snowless conditions...but a general snowfall on the 13th ushered in a dramatic change in the weather pattern and we were locked in a deep midwinter freeze for the remainder of the month. Snowfall accompanied the cold...and was fairly substantial in many areas...especially across Greater Rochester where a number of lake "enhanced" events occurred. Monthly totals were near normal across most of the region...although a bit below over the Tug Hill. Most of the month's snows were synoptic. General snows fell on the 13th, 20th, and 26th, with a general 4 to 7 inches in each one...a bit less in the Buffalo area. Significant lake enhancement dropped almost a foot around Rochester on the 20-21st and again on 26-27th. Monthly totals were over 40 inches across much of Monroe and western Wayne counties...and along the ridges of Chautauqua county...between 30 and 40 inches across most of the higher elevations south of Buffalo and north of Jamestown...extending east to the Bristol hills and Tug Hill. Less than 20 inches fell along the Lake Erie shore...Niagara Frontier including Buffalo...and from Watertown northward.

February began on a wintry note and continued normally cold through the first three weeks...but ended with an astoundingly warm final week. Snowfall wound up near to slightly below normal over most areas. Most of it fell in synoptic events...most notably on the 14th and 18-19th. Significant lake effect was restricted to 6-10" around Rochester on the 1st-2nd...and over a foot on the Tug Hill on the 20th. As is often the case in February, there were no major storms. Monthly totals were as high as 4 feet on the Tug Hill...and ranged down to 2 feet around Rochester and over the snowbelts south of Buffalo. A normal 12-18" fell across Buffalo-Niagara...the Genesee Valley...Finger Lakes...and St Lawrence Valley. The warm weather of the final week (including Buf's warmest Feb day 71 on 26th) melted all of the snow and cleared ice out of rivers and creeks with few problems in the west. The month ended looking more like early April than the end of February.

March provided a rather tranquil ending to the mild and open winter of 1999-2000. The month was generally mild and dry with just a couple of brief wintry periods. Snowfall was near to slightly below normal with nearly all of it resulting from two moderate synoptic falls on 11-12th and on 16th. Monthly snow totals were generally in the 8-14 inch range throughout. These snows melted off quickly. Even the Tug Hill lost its snow by the final week. For the third year in a row, spring appeared 2 to 3 weeks early.

Not so fast! Winter still had a few surprises left as the pattern changed to a more wintry one through much of the first half of April. Cold northwest flows brought coatings of wet snow to the region on the 4-5th and 8-9th. The latter brought a huge snowfall just to our east on the 9th with over a foot from Albany to Burlington to Montreal. This storm grazed our eastern Lake Ontario region with up to a foot over St. Lawrence County...up to 8" on the Tug Hill and over eastern Lewis County...and 3 inches across Jefferson and Oswego Counties. Another 1-2 inches fell areawide on 11th. These snows, as is usually the case in April...melted off quickly. Conditions warmed back to seasonal levels by mid month.