On 5th anniversary of October Storm, cooler temps on the way

asters in Amherst NY garden autumn
Asters. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Sunny and warm– even hot!– day after day. We’ve enjoyed splendid gardening weather this October in the Buffalo area.

But this spate of summery weather isn’t all that unusual for October,  according to Aaron Mentkowski, meteorologist at WKBW Channel 7. This warm weather will end soon, as it does every fall. While our current weather isn’t setting any records, July’s weather did.

Current weather similar to that preceding October Storm of 2006

Mentkowski noted that it was warm in the days that led up to the October Storm, which hit five years ago this week, beginning on Oct. 12, 2006. In that storm, nearly two feet of snow fell on trees that were fully leafed out, breaking off huge branches. Many trees died. Gardeners are still adapting to the loss of trees and shade.

The conditions that precipitated that storm are similar to what we’re seeing now, he said. Starting tomorrow, the temperatures will be cooling off, just as they did before the October Storm. Lake Erie is still warm, just as it was before the October Storm. Cool air moving over warm water are ingredients for lake effect activity.

rose in garden of Helen Waterhouse
Autumn rose in garden of Helen Waterhouse. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The difference between 2006 and today, Mentkowski explained, was that in 2006 the air was just cold enough to produce snow.

“We’ll probably get lake effect rain showers this weekend, but not lake effect snow,” Mentkowski.

Fall and winter weather is on its way

As I type this, I’m wearing shorts and enjoying the breeze through my office window, but Mentkowski said that by this weekend it will feel like fall.

“It’s easing us into what’s coming up,” he said.

The average date for the first flake is Oct. 24. Does that mean that two weeks from now it could snow?

“Oh, it sure could!” Mentkowski said. Nov. 8 is the average date for measurable snow, which is defined as .1 inch or more.

La Nina will affect our winter weather this year, which means you can expect an increase of 30 to 50 percent more snowfall in lake effect areas, he said. It also means above normal temperatures in the second half of the winter.

“That means maybe it will be 35 degrees instead of 32,” he said.

But it could mean that you’ll be able to poke around in your garden earlier in spring, perhaps February or March, said Mentkowski, who is a gardener himself. He worked in a local garden center during college.

The prediction of an early start in the garden isn’t etched in stone, though.

monkshood in Amherst NY
Monkshood. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

“As everybody knows, the weather changes pretty quickly around here,” he said.

July in Buffalo was hot and dry

For record-breaking weather, we can look back at July. Mentkowski listed a number of records and amazing statistics that show just how hot and dry it was in the Buffalo area during July.

  • July 2011 was the third warmest month on record in Buffalo, and the warmest month in 56 years.
  • Lake Erie hit 80 degrees for the first time ever in July.
  • The average temperature for July was 75.3 degrees, 4.5 degrees above normal.
  • Normally, 18 days in July are at or above 80 degrees. This July set a record with 30 out of 31 days reaching that mark.
  • July 22 hit a record high temperature of 95 degrees.
  • There were three record-high overnight low temperatures: a low of 75 degrees on July 19, 76 degrees on July 21 and 77 degrees on July 23.
  • July was only a half-inch below normal in rainfall, but most of that rain fell during thunderstorms on July 6 and July 24. That means the rest of the month was very dry.
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