The position of the warmth was too far west for December. The arctic air over the North Pole was very stable. The ridge was powerful across the east. Heavy rain and severe storms/deadly tornadoes during the month were common around Christmas.
using videos (bottom half of the post at this link) showing the stronger position and intensity of the southern jet stream in January.
Our final winter outlook in late October echoed this southern panhandle storm track for the second half of winter
The extended models are this southern storm track (panhandle lows) as the dominant track through much of February. Here are the snapshots on six periods of seven days each ending during the third week of February.
Most of the teleconnections (NAO, AO and PNA--EPO bouncing back a bit) showing troughiness in the east overall.
All of these factors seem to be the real deal which will lead to colder temperatures and higher chances of panhandle low type systems to interact with colder air leading to an eastward push of snow!
Lake Erie ice cover is nearly non-existent. Last year (before the record setting cold developed) ice cover was only 5% through the first 8 days of January. The current water temperature is still at 40 degrees. The average water temperature is 35 on the 8th. Any cold outbreak like what we will see next week will aid in dropping the water temperature versus adding lake ice outside of the western basin where the water depth is shallow. Bottom line, lake effect snow is more possible January through March than in past years.