Ice Storm, Sunday-Monday, January 14-15, 2007

The transition from the extremely moderate pattern that had dominated the weather since November 2006, to a more wintry regime, began during this period and came in the form of significant freezing rain. Icing affected the region in two waves with the first and lighter period occurring through midday Sunday the 14th with mainly roads, driveways, and sidewalks being made quite slippery. The second round of freezing rain occurred through the morning of the 15th resulting in a damaging ice storm for communities in a narrow zone that included the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys through the Capital Region, north to Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls, and east through Washington County, Vermont, and northern Berkshire County, MA.

The Set Up
An arctic front moved through the Capital Region on Saturday the 13th dropping the temperature from the lower and middle 40s during the early morning into the upper 20s and the lower 30s by the late afternoon and the evening. The cold air, however, as is often the case, was quite shallow which meant very warm air continued over the Northeast in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere. (Warm air aloft over sub freezing air at the ground is the prime ingredient for either sleet or freezing rain and not snow to form when sufficient moisture and lift from a storm are available.) With the cold front stalling out across Pennsylvania and an active jet stream running parallel to it, the stage was set for several areas of low pressure to track along the front into the Northeast forcing moisture into eastern New York and western New England that would fall largely in the form of sleet and freezing rain for a large portion of the area.

Sunday, January 14
The first area of low pressure to roll through on the 14th was fairly weak, which meant the the rain that fell was generally quite light averaging a tenth to two tenths of an inch during mainly the morning. Sub-freezing air, however, was in place across the Mohawk and upper Hudson valleys, including the Capital Region, with temperatures just a shade above freezing in the Catskills and the Mid Hudson valley to Berkshire County, MA. The southern counties just slipped by this first wave with light rain and drizzle and only few minor problems with ice on the 14th. However, the colder Mohawk and Hudson valleys experienced the first wave of light freezing rain which caused very slippery conditions to develop throughout that region during the morning. Because the precipitation was generally quite light, ice accumulations at their greatest were under two tenths of an inch, insufficient to cause any tree or power line damage. Drier weather prevailed during the afternoon and the evening allowing improved travel conditions.

Monday, January 15
A much stronger area of low pressure tracked up along the stalled front, ultimately moving up through western New York late in the day. This system brought with it a more significant envelope of moisture as well as a warming atmosphere aloft. In fact the atmosphere warmed so quickly aloft that the brief period of snow that was able to develop during the pre-dawn hours in the Adirondacks and higher terrain in Rutland County, VT quickly change to a mixture of sleet and freezing rain denying ski country any substantial snow from the storm. Subfreezing air at ground level in the Mohawk valley through the Capital Region to northern Berkshire County, and warm air aloft, ensured that all freezing rain fell until surface temperatures slowly crept above freezing by the early afternoon. The result was a damaging ice storm that brought trees and power lines down resulting in an estimated 80,000 without power during the height of the storm, with an estimated 40,000 out in Saratoga county alone. Ice accumulations ranged from 1/2" to 3/4" through much of the ice storm zone with a pocket in Saratoga County north to Glens Falls and east into Washington County where the ice built up to about an inch.

This graphic illustrates the zone of heaviest icing according to WeatherNet 6 and Albany National Weather Service cooperative observations. Ice accretions ranged from 1/2" to 3/4" on average with some locations receiving in excess of 3/4" .Typically, 1/2" of ice is more than sufficient to produce significant tree and power line damage and is thus the threshold for a National Weather Service advisory of an ice storm. South of the zone of greatest icing temperatures warmed more quickly to above freezing explaining why only a little ice formed with mostly rain falling. North of the zone of heaviest icing, through the Adirondacks and from Rutland County, VT on north the precipitation was more of a mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, as result of the cold air being a little bit deeper in those areas.

With the area of low pressure tracking across western New York during the afternoon, the warm front associated with the storm was able to lift north into the region allowing temperatures to climb to above freezing in most locations by the early to mid afternoon ending the ice storm. In fact the temperatures, according to WeatherNet 6 observations, in the higher elevations of the Catskills from Delaware to Greene Counties briefly jumped into the lower 50s. Gusty southerly winds, accompanied the warming and likely aided in creating additional tree and power line damage, especially to the softer pines, than would otherwise have occurred had the winds been calm. Electricity remained out in some areas for up to four days following the storm. The Saratoga State Park was also closed through Tuesday the 16th due to the danger from falling branches.

The table lists both Ice accumulations and a selection of damage reports for the January 15, 2007 Ice Storm. These reports were compiled from WeatherNet 6 and National Weather Service Cooperative Observer observations.

Damage Report and/or Ice Accumulation
Lake Pleasant Hamilton 1/4" of ice, power out
Salisbury Center Herkimer Trees and wires down on cars and driveways on Dutchtown Road due to ice, 0.60" of Ice
Fairfield Herkimer 0.90" of Ice
North Greenbush Rensselaer 0.5" of Ice taking down trees and power lines
Herkimer, Ilion, Columbia Center Herkimer Widespread trees and power lines down across the southern portion of the county due to heavy icing
Greenwich & Whitecreek Washington Tree limbs and power lines down
Fort Edward, Whitehall, and Salem Washington 1/2" of Ice
Cossayuna Washington An Inch of Ice, power out at 3pm Monday
Claverack & Ghent Columbia Tree limbs and power lines down due to ice
Halfmoon, Malta, Round Lake, Clifton Park, and Wilton Saratoga Major Ice Storm, widespread limbs and power lines down, all with 1/2" of ice
Stillwater Saratoga One Inch of Ice
Saratoga Springs Saratoga 3/4" of Ice
Colonie and Cohoes Albany 1/2" of Ice, tree limbs and power lines down
Albany Albany 0.40" of Ice
Caroga Lake and Mayfield Fulton Ice Storm, trees and power lines down
Lake Luzerne and Queensbury, Lake George Warren Trees and power lines down due to ice, 1/2" of Ice
Glens Falls Warren 0.60" of Ice
Cobleskill, North Blenheim Schoharie Ice Storm, tree limbs and power lines down
Niskayuna, Glenville, Schenectady Schenectady 1/2" of Ice, trees limbs and power lines down
Grafton, Brunswick, Buskirk Rensselaer Ice Storm, many tree limbs and power lines down
Fort Plain and Amsterdam Montgomery Ice Storm, many tree limbs and power lines down
Bethlehem Center Albany Ice Storm, tree limbs and power lines down
Kinderhook, North Chatham Columbia 1/2" of Ice
North Adams, MA Berkshire Measured severe T'storm wind gust of 58 mph
Readsboro, VT Bennington Ice Storm, trees and power lines down around 3pm
Reynolds Corners Saratoga NY State Route 197 closed between the Washington County line and Fort Edward due to numerous trees and wires down blocking the road

The following photographs are a sample illustrating the the degree of icing that occurred in the ice storm zone.

Photograph #1: Dawn Rowan, Galway, Saratoga County, Monday, January 15, 2007

Photograph #2: Neil Stuart, North Colonie, Albany County, Monday, January 15, 2007

Photograph #3: Jim Westman, (WeatherNet 6) Palatine Bridge, Montgomery County, Monday, January 15, 2007

Photograph #4: Jim Westman, (WeatherNet 6) Glen, Montgomery County, Monday, January 15, 2007
This ice storm event was unusual in that there was no snow on the ground anywhere in the area so ice accumulated on blades of grass, creating a rare sight for January.