Buffalo snow: Western New York digs up to 6 feet of accumulation


Heavy snow is expected to continue accumulation in western New York state through Sunday after a historic storm saw the Buffalo area receive record snowfall totals of more than 6 feet in some areas.

Shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service in Buffalo issued a statement special weather announcement warning that a band of heavy snow accompanied by strong winds is creating a “blizzard” in western New York state. The group was moving south of the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas, the weather service said.

By Sunday morning, winds had shifted further west, meaning the heaviest streaks of lake effect snow are now south of the affected Buffalo areas from Cleveland to Dunkirk, New York. Buffalo is no longer under a lake effect snow warning, but remains under a winter weather warning through Sunday night for “snow,” according to the weather service.

While the Buffalo area is used to dealing with heavy snowfall, this storm delivered “a lot more than we normally get,” Mayor Byron Brown told CNN on Saturday.

Erie County, which includes Buffalo, experienced its largest amount of snowfall in a 24-hour period Saturday, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncartz.

“This was a RECORD storm that in some ways was more intense than Snowvember, the relatively quick recovery is a testament to everyone’s preparation and planning,” Poloncarz said. “The proactive approach continues to work.”

Snowvember” refers to a storm in the Buffalo area in November 2014 where nearly 7 feet of snow was dumped over three days. At least 13 people died in that storm, and the weight of the snow caused dozens of roofs to collapse under the impact.

Two people died in that storm from heart complications related to shoveling snow and trying to clear the ground, Poloncarz said.

As the heaviest snow fell south of the greater Buffalo area in southern Erie and Chautauqua counties overnight, an additional 6 to 18 inches is possible in the region, especially in higher terrain, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.

Sunday’s heaviest snowfall will be east of Lake Ontario, where up to an additional foot of snow is forecast, with even more possible in localized areas.

Wind gusts could reach 45 mph in the Great Lakes region, which will bring very cold conditions with temperatures feeling in the single digits to just below freezing.

Snowfall totals of more than 6 feet were recorded in two locations, according to the weather service. Orchard Park, home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, got 77.0 inches in a 48-hour period, and Natural Bridge, just east of Watertown, got 72.3 inches — historic numbers for the area.

The multi-day weather event hampered travel in the region, prompting road closures, driving bans and flight cancellations over the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Saturday night, the weather service warned that the latest band would make travel conditions difficult within minutes.

Nearly 400 citations have been issued to drivers found to be violating travel bans in the region, said Poloncarz, the Erie County executive.

“If you’re trying to enter a travel ban area, you’ll be met by a friendly New York State Police officer who will immediately give you a ticket for violating the travel ban,” Poloncarz said.

Poloncarz updated Erie County’s travel tips Sunday, saying travel bans remain in effect for Buffalo south of William Street, Lackawanna Township, Hamburg Townships, Orchard Park and Evans Townships. He said that includes the villages of Angola and Blasdell.

Authorities are towing vehicles stuck on the side of the road or involved in accidents because of people traveling during the snowstorm, he said.

Poloncarz added: “We need to get through the snow clearing today and tomorrow and expect to have most areas back to normal by then.” Erie County will also consult with the school district regarding school tomorrow, later today.”

Air travelers aren’t faring much better, with dozens of flights arriving and departing Buffalo Niagara International Airport canceled as storm conditions worsen, according to airport website.

The airport set a daily record snowfall on 21.5 inches on Saturday, breaking the previous daily record of 7.6 inches set in 2014, the local weather service said.

It ranks as the fifth-highest single-day snowfall total on record for Buffalo and the second-highest single-day snowfall total for the month of November.

This month is already the third snowiest November in Buffalo at the airport thanks to the storm, according to local weather service.

New York Gov. Cathy Hochul touted the state’s storm preparedness Saturday afternoon and said crews are working tirelessly to contain the situation.

“This is the effort we’ve put together: bringing resources, people, equipment from all over New York State. And because we were so proactive in this strike, we were able to prevent a lot of tragedies,” Hochul said.

She thanked Western New Yorkers for closing major highways, enforcing travel bans and staying home before the snow started to fall, which helped prevent accidents, protect lives and ensure roads were safe and clear for emergency responders. she said.

Hochul said he is doubling the number of New York National Guard members on site in Erie County to check on residents and help with snow removal.

She also signs a request for federal reimbursement through a Federal Disaster Declaration.

Nearly 6 million people in four Great Lakes states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) will remain under winter weather warnings for most of Sunday.

Brown, Buffalo’s mayor, said the city could return to “some sense of normalcy” by Monday or Tuesday, assuming the worst of the storm passes by Sunday.

“It was a very unpredictable storm with streaks of snow moving back and forth, north to south,” Brown said. “The snow fell very fast, very wet, very heavy.”

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