Lake effect snow storm starts in western New York, could bury Buffalo

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  • “Bands of heavy lake-effect snow began to pour off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario late Wednesday night,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff.
  • The snow “may paralyze” the hardest-hit communities, including Buffalo, with periods of near-zero visibility.
  • Lake-effect snow events typically occur from the late autumn to the first part of winter.

The snow has started. 

AccuWeather forecasters say a blockbuster lake-effect snowstorm will bury some locations in western New York with feet of snow, grind travel to a halt and possibly stamp new marks in the weather history books.

“Bands of heavy lake-effect snow began to pour off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario late Wednesday night, and meteorologists say that snow is only one phase of what is shaping up to be a historic and multi-day snowfall event,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff. 

The National Weather Service said the snow could paralyze the hardest-hit communities, including Buffalo, with periods of near-zero visibility.

Several feet of snow expected in western New York

Several feet of heavy lake-effect snow is expected in parts of western New York this week, according to the weather service in Buffalo. 

Forecasters on Wednesday issued several lake-effect snow warnings for the week in the Buffalo region, including one that started Wednesday night and said up to 4 feet of snow could fall in parts of the area by Saturday evening.

Weather service meteorologist David Thomas described an “intense band of lake-effect snow” at a rate of 3 inches an hour at times over three days.

Travel, he said, could be “very difficult to impossible.”

Traffic banned on some highways

All commercial traffic has been banned on a stretch of the New York State Thruway, between Exit 46 in Henrietta and the Pennsylvania state line, starting 4 p.m. Thursday until further notice. The state Department of Transportation has banned commercial vehicles in other Buffalo area highways, including Interstates 190, 290 and 990.

In addition, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency to begin Thursday morning in response to the wintry forecast. She asked New Yorkers to “avoid unnecessary travel during hazardous conditions” in the Buffalo area on Thursday and Friday.

“I want western New Yorkers to take this seriously,” Hochul said.

The heaviest snowfall is expected between Buffalo and the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Thomas said. Winds could gust up to 35 mph, which could create some difficult road conditions.

Browns-Bills game could be impacted

The snow warning also encompasses nearby Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills are scheduled to play the Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Sunday is also predicted to be a chilly and breezy day, with a predicted high near 30 degrees and gusts up to 25 mph.

In addition to western New York, lake-effect snow is likely over the next few days in western and upper Michigan, northern Indiana, northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania, said.

More than 17 inches of snow was already reported as of Thursday morning at one spot in northeast Ohio, the weather service in Cleveland said.

What is lake-effect snow? Here’s how it happens and how much snow it can bring with it.

Lake-effect snow typical in November

Lake-effect snow events typically occur from late autumn to the first part of winter when the Great Lakes are still unfrozen and the waters are warm relative to the colder air flowing across the region from Canada, AccuWeather said. As of Wednesday, water temperatures on the Great Lakes were close to 50 degrees.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Freile reports for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

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