BUFFALO, New York – For Western New York, snow isn’t usually a big deal. But this week’s snowfall in the region is expected to be crippling, forecasters say.
A multi-day snowfall is forecast to begin Wednesday night and continue through most of the weekend, ending with feet, not inches, of snow in and around Buffalo and Watertown.
The snow will increase on Thursday night
The first round of snow is expected Wednesday night and Thursday morning with accumulations that could exceed 9 inches.
“This will be the start of a long lake-effect snowfall that will likely include crippling snowfall in the Buffalo and Watertown areas later this week and into the weekend,” the National Weather Service in Buffalo said.
As cold air moves in from Canada, it will flow over the warmer waters of Lake Erie and Ontario. This warmer water will cause air to rise, forming clouds and eventually snow.
The wind will then push the clouds over areas east of the lake, dumping an incredible amount of snow – in this case – over several days.
According to the weather service in Buffalo, lake effect snow will intensify Thursday night, bringing snowfall amounts that can be measured in feet in the Buffalo and Watertown metro areas.
As a result, a snowpack warning is in effect for the region, saying 2 to 3 feet of snow accumulation is expected, with the potential for up to 4 feet.
“Friday looks like it’s going to be the worst day for the city of Buffalo, with heavy snow falling at rates of two to three inches per hour,” Buffalo meteorologist John Hitchcock told CNN.
Winds on Friday will also gust to 35 mph. The weather service warned that it would bring snow and reduced visibility to just a few hundred feet, making travel extremely difficult and dangerous.
“Some major roadways may be temporarily closed,” the Buffalo Weather Service warns. “Hazardous conditions will affect Friday morning and evening commutes.”
The potential to be historic
No doubt Buffalo has had its share of snow monsters.
Historic events include November 20, 2000, when many were trapped in their cars as 2 feet of snow fell in less than 24 hours, and the twin storms that made Snowmageddon (2014) infamous with more than 5 feet of snow.
“It’s too early to tell if we’re going to get that much snow,” Hitchcock said, “but it could be the worst event for the city of Buffalo in at least five or six years.”
The November 2014 storms were the most significant weather event I covered for CNN.
Flying into Buffalo, the snow looked like a curtain. There was a clear dividing line from where the snow began and ended. It was the same on the ground. There was almost no snow where we lived. In less than 4 miles the snow was chest deep.
The meteorology of that event was amazing; to witness it was jaw dropping. It was also a reminder of how dangerous lake-effect snow can be.
A snow event in 2014 claimed the lives of more than a dozen people. While it’s too early to tell how that will play out, meteorologists say residents should be prepared.
“The good thing is that it looks like the ‘group’ will be moving throughout the weekend rather than focusing on one particular location. But we could see several feet of snow during this event,” Hitchcock said. “People should be prepared to stay home for the weekend.”
The event will likely continue through Sunday, affecting the Buffalo Bills’ 1:00 p.m. game when they host the Cleveland Browns.
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