Before I get into lake effect snow amounts I want to give you a broad overview of the Tug Hill Plateau. Nestled in the ‘North Country between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks, Tug Hill is a region of unbroken northern hardwood forests and pristine wetlands drained by a vast network of coldwater streams. The Tug Hill region is located in four Upstate New York counties: Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, and Oswego. The top of the plateau is relatively flat compared to other areas in New York State. The most outstanding characteristic of the Tug Hill region is its undeveloped state. There are some small, scattered hamlets and villages along the outer edges of the region, but the core area is heavily forested and relatively unpopulated. In spite of the region being sparsely populated (for some strange reason), a few places like Boonville, Barnes Corners, Redfield, and Montague occasionally make the news during the winter. Many old timers up here think Tug Hill got its name sometime around the 18th and 19th centuries. in this time span the term "tugging" was use to describe areas that were reached by horses or oxen pulling a wagon up a long road to get to a high area. H.E. Krueger in an article "The Lesser Wilderness - Tug Hill" he claims the Tug Hill was named by two early settlers, Isaac Perry and a Mr. Buell when traveling up the hill west of Turin The Tug Hill covers an area of 2,100 square miles with an elevation from about 350 feet on the west to over 2,000 feet in the east. The area because of its location on the east-end of Lake Ontario, along with the combination of winter winds blowing over almost 200 miles of Lake Ontario waters, and the 2,000-foot rise of Tug Hill creates these heavy lake snows. These storms are responsible for the majority of the over 200 inches of snow the Tug receives annually, turning the region into a winter wonderland. The heavy snowfall is one of Tug Hill’s greatest recreational assets.
Just what is Lake Effect Snow?
Lake effect snow, also called snow squalls, results from cold, arctic air traveling over a relatively warm body of water. The cold, dry air picks up the water moisture and deposits it, in the form of snow, over land areas in- lee of the warmer water. In the case of the Northeast lake effect snows can occur around Lakes Ontario and Erie and to a lesser extent around Lake Champlain and the Sound off of Long Island. After the passage of a cold front the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes often create convective instability in an otherwise stable, arctic continental airmass. Therefore, while areas in eastern New York and the rest of New England are clearing up after a recent cold front or storms passage, The Great Lakes communities hold their breath waiting for the lake effect snow machine to awaken. Lake-enhanced snow is different from lake-effect as it is part of an already present system.
There are other factors as well. Some of these are wind shear, thermal convergence, and frictional convergence. I will not go into these. However, if you want to know about them. Drop me an Email and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Pictures courtesy of NWS Buffalo