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.

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

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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.

NFL moves Bills-Browns game to Detroit

The NFL has moved Sunday’s game between the Bills and Cleveland Browns out of the Buffalo area because of the snowstorm. The game will be held in Detroit instead, the league announced Thursday. 

The game had been scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

The contest will  take place at Ford Field in Detroit, as the Lions will be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to take on the New York Giants this Sunday. The Bills-Browns contest will still take place at 1 p.m.

The Bills could also stay in Detroit next week as they take on the Lions in the first game of the league’s tripleheader on Thanksgiving. 

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: Scooby Axson; The Associated Press. Freile reports for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

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