Buffalo snow: The worst of what could be a historic snowstorm forecast to hit western New York today
Heavy snowfall that has hit parts of western New York state will continue on Friday, when the worst storm on record could bring down trees and damage property.
“Snowfall will cause near zero visibility, difficult to impossible travel, damage infrastructure and paralyze the hardest hit communities,” National Weather Service he said on Thursday. “Very cold air will accompany this event, with temperatures 20 degrees below normal predicted through the weekend.”
“Historical snowfall in excess of 4 feet is likely around Buffalo,” it added Friday.
About 6 million people in the five Great Lakes states — from Wisconsin to New York — are under snow warnings Friday, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. Lake-effect snow will continue into Sunday in areas downwind of the Great Lakes, according to the National Weather Service.
Friday morning, the heaviest bands of snow were near Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, bringing snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour to cities in and around Buffalo and Watertown, New York.
How the region is gearing up for more:
• Commercial traffic is banned on some roads, although some bans were replaced by travel warnings on Friday morning.
• Flights were canceled at Buffalo Airport, which already had more than a foot of snow.
• The NFL moved Sunday’s Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns game to Detroit.
• Parts of Oswego County near Lake Ontario saw 2 feet of snow by Thursday night.
• The Buffalo area expected up to 4 to 5 feet.
• Areas east of Lake Erie and Ontario could see 3 inches or more of snow per hour, with occasional lightning and strong winds.
Urging residents to be cautious this weekend, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul described the storm as a “big, big” snow event that could be life-threatening snow storm of november 2014 which claimed the lives of 20 people in the Buffalo region.
“That level of snow coming down with such intensity is what creates the danger because of the lack of visibility on the roads,” Hochul said Thursday as she declared a state of emergency for 11 counties.
“When it comes down at that rate, it’s almost impossible to clear the road to make it safe for travel,” she said. “It won’t be safe for drivers to get back on the road for some time.”
Commercial traffic was closed Thursday afternoon on about 130 miles of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) in the Rochester and Buffalo area to the Pennsylvania border, Hochul’s office said. Other sections of major interstates – including 90, 290 and 990 – are also closed.
Furthermore, officials in New York’s Erie County – which includes Buffalo – also declared a state of emergency and banned driving as of Thursday night.
“Lake effect snow (storms) are very heavy and can cause tree branches to fall and damage vehicles, property or power lines. Be careful where you park and be aware of your surroundings if you go outside,” Erie County officials wrote online.
The storm’s most intense snow is expected to hit the Buffalo area, where more than 4 feet could accumulate, making the forecast not seen in more than 20 years. The city’s highest three-day snowfall is 56.1 inches, which occurred in December 2001, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
Indeed, given the rate of snowfall, Buffalo can see a month’s worth of snow in just a few hours. That could make this month the snowiest November since 2000, when a total of 45.6 inches fell in the city over the course of the month, Miller added.
Already, residents of Williamstown in Oswego County near Lake Ontario have seen 24 inches of snow since Thursday night, according to meteorological service. In neighboring Oneida County, some places had received 14 inches of snow in the 24 hours before Thursday night, according to meteorological service.
Friday alone could bring more than 2 feet of snow, making it among the three snowiest days in Buffalo, according to Miller.
“Heavy lake-effect snow near Lake Erie with snowfall rates of 2-3″ per hour will continue to result in extremely difficult travel this evening for the Buffalo Metro area east to Batavia as well as Oswego County near Lake Ontario,” National Weather Service Buffalo he said on Thursday night.
“Additional snow accumulations of 2-3 feet are expected downwind of Lakes Erie and Ontario, while 8-12″ is likely downwind of the other 3 lakes by Sunday morning,” it added Friday.
Lake-effect snow occurs when very cold, windy conditions form on a relatively warm lake — meaning the lake could be 40 degrees while the air is zero degrees, Miller explained. The temperature conflict creates instability, which allows for the most extreme winter weather.
Other areas affected by the storm include parts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and western Lower Peninsula, where gusty winds and heavy snow will also cause near-zero visibility and unsafe travel conditions.
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