A major lake-effect snow event continues to unfold across the Buffalo, New York, area as feet of heavy, wet snow continues to pile up and more is set to threaten the area towards the end of the week.
A large lake-effect snow band formed on Monday night over Lake Erie as cold arctic air began sweeping over the relatively warmer Great Lakes. The snow band took aim at southwestern New York and has yet to give up its position.
Communities along the I-90 corridor in southwestern New York, from Silver Creek to the Southtowns of Buffalo have been left in a disabled state, after feet of snow fell on Tuesday.
The New York Thruway was impossible to traverse as snowplows were unable to keep up with the 3- to 5-inch per hour snowfall rates. To make matters worse, gusty winds accompanied the heavy snow, causing blowing, drifting, and white-out conditions at times.
Some motorists caught out in these bands were left stranded on major highways on Tuesday. Plow trucks were even stuck in some communities. The governor of New York declared several counties a state of emergency, allowing National Guard troops to be put on alert and utilized.
Photo: Lake-effect storm near Buffalo closes part of @NYSThruway8790 with significant snowfall pic.twitter.com/bOYHZIBUZB— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) November 18, 2014
An impressive 5-foot snowfall total has been measured in Lancaster, New York, a suburb of Buffalo as of Tuesday night with similar amounts across the Southtowns. However, due to the nature of these snow bands, some areas can get pummeled, while others escape the intense snow. For instance, the Buffalo airport has only received 3.9 inches of snow while a few miles to the south, several feet fell.
Depending on the investigation of snowfall measurement activities, and if the intense snow continues through Wednesday morning, there is a chance the 24-hour United States snowfall record could fall. That official record belongs to Silver Lake, Colorado, with 76 inches, spanning April 14-15, 1921. A report of snowfall of 77 inches in 24 hours at Montague, New York, was thrown out by officials from January 1997.
According to the Associated Press, four people have died so far due to the heavy snow. Three of the incidents were related to heart attacks from shoveling snow, while the other one was due to an automobile accident.
Communities downwind of Lake Ontario across the Tug Hill Plateau have also seen several feet of snow. Parts of Michigan have seen the snow pile up as well.
A weak disturbance will pass over the Great Lakes on Wednesday and will shift the snow bands away from the region, allowing for a lull in the action. However, lake-effect snow will re-energize on Thursday and could bring an additional couple of feet for southwestern New York, Tug Hill Plateau, and areas downwind from the lakes in Michigan.
"Following this disturbance on Thursday afternoon, lake effect will resume in similar capacity and another foot, at minimum, can be expected in the heaviest banding," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Evan Duffey.
The redevelopment of these intense snow bands means the risk for more travel delays and cancellations through the end of the week. Visibility will vary wildly when these snow bands strike, and motorists should be prepared to slow down if they are faced with a blinding burst of snow.
When the snow is all said and done at the end of this week, total snowfall amounts may top 8 or 9 feet in some areas around Buffalo.
The risk for snow is expected to come to an end as the weekend arrives. Shifting winds and high pressure will squash snow chances over the weekend. However, a new risk will arise.
A strong disturbance will bring a surge of warmth into the Great Lakes, erasing the arctic chill that has been in place. With several feet of snow covering the ground and temperatures rising into the 50s and 60s, melting snow and rain will cause significant issues such as flooding.
"The combination of the warmth and rain will bring tremendous snow melt," said Duffey. "Flooding will certainly be a concern."