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When to travel in Upstate NY to beat frozen blast expected just before Christmas weekend – syracuse.com

Heavy rain Thursday and Friday across the Northeast could wash away road salt, and plunging temperatures Friday could coat streets with a layer of ice. (Accuweather)
Read: Here’s how winter storm will likely unfold in Central NY as Christmas holiday begins
Syracuse, N.Y. — If you’re planning to drive to visit family for Christmas, you might want to rethink your plans.
A storm so disruptive it hits only once ever few decades is barreling across the country and will hit Upstate New York in earnest on Friday. It is likely to cause some combination of heavy rain, icing roads, bitterly cold temperatures, high winds and heavy lake effect snow.
Your best bet is to leave today or Thursday. Things get dicey on Friday as winds pick up and temperatures crash. Saturday and Sunday will be cold but relatively snow-free unless you’re downwind of lakes Erie and Ontario, where you could hit blinding lake effect snow.
Here’s how each day is shaping up.
Thursday: Temperatures warm from freezing in the morning to high 40s in the afternoon. Light rain moves into Western New York about 9 a.m. and the Capital Region by 1 p.m. Winds start to pick up after dark, and the rain starts to fall harder.
Friday. This is when the bedlam starts. Rainfall is hitting its peak by Friday morning across the entire state as a warm weather system surges in from the southwest. Syracuse and Albany could each see an inch of rain from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Winds start to pick up, too, with gusts from the northwest hitting 40 mph or greater by early Friday afternoon, and up to 60 mph by Friday night in Western New York. If you’re driving a van or SUV, you’ll have to grip the wheel a little harder.
The real driving danger Friday, though, is the plummeting temperatures. Starting in late morning in Western New York and mid-afternoon in Central New York, the temperature will plunge from 50 to below freezing in a matter of hours. By this time, the rain has washed away the road salt, and now turns to ice. (See map above for approximate times.)
Lake effect snow starts in Western New York Friday morning, too, and combined with the winds it will make driving almost impossible.
Saturday: Lake effect snow continues all day in parts of Western New York and Tug Hill, while winds continue whipping up to 45 mph. Lake effect snow bands tend to be narrow, so not everybody will be hit. The Buffalo-Niagara Falls area could see whiteout conditions, and the blinding snow could cause problems on the Thruway. The North Country will get slammed with lake effect snow, too, so I-81 toward Watertown could be hazardous.
Saturday will be bitterly cold, too. Wind chills around sunrise will bottom out at 10 to 20 degrees below zero. The high temperatures will be in the teens, but the wind chill won’t get much above 1 degree or so. Except for the lake effect bands, snow won’t be an issue over the weekend.
Christmas Day. Temperatures creep back up into the low 20s, and winds taper off slightly. Lake effect snow could continue in the Buffalo and Watertown areas, although it could taper off during the day.
Monday. The sun finally peeks out a little bit, and temperatures inch back up into the mid 20s. The snow is largely done for much of Upstate, although snow showers linger in the traditional lake effect areas.
READ MORE
Here’s how winter storm will likely unfold in Central NY as Christmas holiday begins
‘One of the most intense storm systems in decades’ to lash Upstate NY on Christmas weekend
First weather alerts issued in Upstate NY for “once in a generation” winter storm
Christmas weekend travel could be dangerous as powerful storm hits Upstate New York
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