A huge snowstorm generated by lake effect dumped heavy snow in the Great Lakes region (western New York) in the United States, paralysing life with some areas receiving over five feet of snow and claiming two lives.
Lake-effect snow occurs when cold air blows across an unfrozen lake that is relatively warm, heating the cold air from below and creating heavy snow showers. These showers often form in narrow quasi-stationary bands causing significant amounts of snow to fall over a small area.
The latest snow storm on Friday is stated to be colossal even by western New York standards. Snowfall totals reached 5 feet in at least two locations. Orchard Park, where the Buffalo Bills had been scheduled to play their now-relocated NFL game Sunday, had snowfall totals of up to 66 inches by Friday evening. Blasdell, about eight miles from Buffalo, recorded 65 inches as of 8:30 p.m.
It started on Wednesday evening, and will probably carry on until the end of the weekend with the worst-affected places being Buffalo City on the eastern edges of Lake Erie, and areas around Watertown on Lake Ontario.
“I can say that our deputies have been just absolutely inundated with calls for service as it pertains to disabled motor vehicles and stranded motorists,” Erie County Undersheriff William J. Cooley said at a news conference Friday night as heavy, wet snow continued to fall. “We implore the residents to just, please, obey the travel ban, you become part of the problem very quickly when you’re out there on the streets.”
The storm had contributed to two deaths. Two Erie County residents died after suffering cardiac events related to shoveling or blowing snow, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said earlier.
Buffalo’s highest three-day snowfall is 56.1 inches, which occurred in December 2001, CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller said. One area of the city reported almost 20 inches as of Friday morning.
An official said the lake-effect snow event had hit the south towns of Buffalo “with a vengeance, very hard and all these communities are in a state of emergency at this point.”
Earlier, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul implored residents to take caution this weekend and described the storm as a “major, major” snowfall event that could be as life-threatening as the November 2014 snowstorm that claimed the lives of 20 people in the Buffalo region.
The heaviest snow has shifted just a few miles south of the hardest hit region early Friday evening. But the snow band is expected to return back to the north later in the evening and even shift far enough north that downtown Buffalo gets into the heavy snow again overnight and early Saturday.
Much of the area gets a break by Saturday afternoon as the snow shifts even farther north. A final band comes through Saturday evening and into the overnight hours before snow tapers off early Sunday.
“Colder air will continue to pour across the region, resulting in a prolonged lake effect snow event, which will last through this weekend.” National Weather Service forecasters in Buffalo said Friday morning. “Two intense plumes of lake effect snow with snowfall rates of at least 3 inches per hour will continue northeast of the lakes through tonight.”