Ice to our north; fog to our south
First full day of winter feels more like a touch of spring
CAPITAL REGION Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam was invisible from the ski center’s parking lot late Sunday morning.
The chair lift transported skiers into a thick blanket of fog that held them close until they descended to the ridge’s base.
“It’s foggy and it’s wonderful. It’s just like spring. We’ve got to keep a positive attitude,” said Ski Ridge spokeswoman Kate Michener. “It’s very peaceful.”
Just as the calendar announced the official start of winter, the Capital Region was infiltrated by unseasonably warm temperatures that brought on the fog and stole away much of the snow that fell during last week’s storm. The rapid snow melt, combined with periods of rain both Saturday and Sunday, raised concerns about flooding and kept many winter sports enthusiasts indoors.
Farther north, where a pocket of cold air remained in place, significant ice accumulations made traveling treacherous and knocked out power to thousands.
Despite the warm, rainy weather in the Capital Region and the snow melt that came along with it, all of the trails were open Sunday at Maple Ski Ridge. About 14 inches of snow covered the ground by the lodge and higher up the snow was several feet deep, thanks to snow-making that went on earlier in the month.
Temperatures were uneven across the region. Albany County International Airport saw 52 degrees, while Glens Falls never broke 34, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Evan Heller. He said the discrepancy was caused by a quasi-stationary frontal barrier. In layman’s terms, air of different temperatures just sat over the area and didn’t move a whole lot.
The Mohawk River was running high and fast Sunday afternoon, hauling chunks of ice along with it.
Jim Duggan, who lives in Schenectady’s Stockade, was closely monitoring its level.
“It was flowing very nicely last time I looked and all of the indications say things are in fine shape,” he said on Sunday afternoon.
Duggan’s North Street home has been flooded by the Mohawk multiple times since he took up residence there in 1965.
Sunday’s weather brought to mind the first time it happened, in December 1973.
“In early December, there was a very cold snap that built up lots of ice on the river and then at Christmastime there was a warm-up and lots of rain,” he recalled. An ensuing ice jam sent water rushing up his street.
Duggan said the ice flowing downriver Sunday was nowhere near as thick as it was in 1973.
“The thickest I saw [Sunday] was about eight or nine inches,” he reported.
According to the National Weather Service’s flood gauge at Little Falls, the Mohawk River peaked at 11.84 feet late Saturday night and was down to 10.48 feet at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Flood stage is 15 feet.
“We were concerned, but the lucky factor was we got a lot less rain than we expected,” said Hugh Johnson, another National Weather Service Meteorologist. “Most places got well under an inch.”
Cross-country skiers were still hitting the trails at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Northville Sunday afternoon, but the snow base had diminished greatly from last week, when the area saw 17 inches of snow.
The average snow depth Sunday on the trails was between 2 and 5 inches, with 6 to 10 inches in the woods. Thirty-two kilometers of ski trails and 12 kilometers of snowshoeing trials were open, according to Ann Hirvonen, who owns the center with her husband.
“We’ve retained our base, so then we’re just waiting for some of that powder to come,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to stay open on a daily basis but everybody should check the snow report before driving up.”
The warm weather has put a temporary end to the ice skating at the Empire State Plaza Ice Rink in Albany, which was closed Sunday and will remain so today. If conditions permit, the rink could reopen Tuesday, according to the New York State Office of General Services.
The warm weather isn’t predicted to stick around long. According to the National Weather Service, a cold front is set to move through the area today and produce a few rain showers.
A small disturbance predicted to move through Tuesday night may produce scattered snow showers.
Christmas Day is expected to be sunny and cold, with temperatures in the mid to upper 20s.