The unusually mild first part of winter has not only left much of CNY in a significant snow drought, but also with the lack of ice on area lakes, including the Great Lakes!
This probably comes as no surprise, but about three weeks into January the percentage of ice coverage on the Great Lakes is historically low with not even 2% of ice coverage on the lakes!! Check out the graphic and you can see that all of the Great Lakes are almost ice free! Lake Erie has no ice on it at all, and this is the Great Lake that is the shallowest of them all and in a typical winter it more often than not completely freezes over! Lake Ontario basically has no ice coverage either! The Great Lake that has the most ice on it is Lake Huron with the northern shores of Georgian Bay having the bulk of it. Lake Superior and Michigan are at about 1.5% ice coverage.
What does this all mean? When cold air blows in from Canada/Arctic it will spell significant amounts of lake snow for those downwind of the wide open Great Lake(s)! Yes, there likely will be ice developing on the Great Lakes to end January into at least the start of February as much colder air will be settling into the Great Lakes region, but probably not enough to interfere with lake effect snow late this winter. In a “normal” winter lake snow would be capped at least somewhat due to the extent of ice on the lakes, but that will not be the case this winter.
So don’t be surprised that lake effect snow remains an issue longer than it normally is as long as the air is cold enough, especially at night late this winter.
Also, note that the average water temperature of Lake Ontario as of January 19th was 40° still! According to the Great Lakes Surface Environmental Analysis the 40° average water temperature of Lake Ontario in late January is the warmest temperature recorded in late January (mid-winter) in the last 26 years!!