New York snow: A potentially historic storm is bearing down on western New York state, bringing treacherous snowfall that could damage infrastructure


Heavy snow that has pummeled parts of western New York state will continue into Friday, when the worst of a potentially historic storm could uproot trees and damage property.

“Snowfall will bring near zero visibility, difficult to impossible travel, damage to infrastructure and paralyze the hardest hit communities,” the National Weather Service said Thursday. “Very cold air will accompany this event, with temperatures 20 degrees below normal forecast by the end of the week.”

“More than 4 feet of historic snowfall is likely around Buffalo,” it added Friday.

About 6 million people in five Great Lakes states — from Wisconsin to New York — are under snow warnings Friday, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. According to the National Weather Service, lake effect snow will continue in downwind areas of the Great Lakes through Sunday.

Snowfall rates of more than 3 inches per hour are possible in New York, Lake Erie and east of Ontario, with occasional lightning and gusty winds, the weather service warned.

“The extent of the snow coming down with that intensity makes the lack of visibility on the roads dangerous,” New York Gov. Cathy Hochul said Thursday as she declared a state of emergency for 11 counties.

“When it comes down to that rate, it’s almost impossible to clear the road to make it safe to travel,” Hochul said. “It will not be safe for motorists to return to the roads for a significant amount of time.”

About 130 miles of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) in the Rochester and Buffalo area has been closed to commercial traffic at the Pennsylvania border since Thursday afternoon, Hochul’s office said. Other parts of major interstates — including the 90, 290 and 990 — are also closed,

Urging residents to be cautious this weekend, Hochul described the storm as a “major, major” blizzard event that could be as deadly as the November 2014 blizzard that killed 20 people in the Buffalo region.

Firefighters respond to a vehicle crash on I-290 in Snyder, New York on Thursday.

Additionally, officials in New York’s Erie County – which includes Buffalo – also declared a state of emergency and banned driving from Thursday night.

“Lake effect snow from (the storm) is very heavy and can cause tree limbs to fall and damage to vehicles, property or power lines. Watch where you park and be aware of people around you if you’re out and about,” Erie County officials wrote online.

The storm’s heaviest snow is expected to fall on the Buffalo area, where more than 4 feet of snow could pile up, which is not predicted to be 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 could see a month’s worth of snow in just a few hours. Miller added that this month could be the snowiest November since 2000, when the city received a total of 45.6 inches for the entire month.

Already, residents of Williamstown in Oswego County near Lake Ontario had seen 24 inches of snow by Thursday evening, according to the weather service. In neighboring Oneida County, some spots received 14 inches of snow in the 24 hours before Thursday evening, according to the weather service.

Friday alone could bring more than 2 feet of snow, making it one of the top three snowiest days on record in Buffalo, according to Miller.

“Heavy lake effect snow with snowfall rates of 2-3″ per hour on Lake Erie will result in extremely difficult travel this evening from the Buffalo metro area east to Batavia and also into Oswego County near Lake Ontario,” National Weather Service in Buffalo said on Thursday the night

“An additional 2-3 feet of snow is expected downwind on Lakes Erie and Ontario while 8-12″ is likely downwind on the other 3 lakes by Sunday morning,” it added Friday.

Lake effect snow occurs when very cold, windy conditions develop over a relatively warm lake — meaning the lake can be 40 degrees when the air is zero degrees, Miller explained. Temperature collisions create instability, which allows for the most extreme winter weather.

Sunday’s NFL game in Orchard Park, New York between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns has been moved to Detroit due to emergency weather, the league announced Thursday.

Other areas affected by the storm include parts of the Upper Peninsula and the western Lower Peninsula of Michigan, where strong winds and heavy snow will also cause near-zero visibility and unsafe travel conditions.


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