Potentially historic snowstorm slams western New York state
Western New York is used to snow, but forecasters say this weekend's storm could be historic. About six million people from Michigan to New York are under alerts for so-called lake effect snow.
The historic snowstorm is slammed western New York state Saturday with over 6 feet of snow in some places, closing roads, triggering driving bans and canceling flights the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Extreme snowfall “will produce near zero visibility, very difficult to impossible travel, damage to infrastructure, and may paralyze the hardest-hit communities,” the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday morning.
Drivers in western New York's Erie County are still advised to stay off the roads after deadly storm dumps almost 6 feet of snow in some areas
Snowfall totals of over 6 feet have been recorded in two locations, according to the National Weather Service. Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, has picked up 77.0 inches in the last 48 hours, and Natural Bridge, just east of Watertown, has picked up 72.3 inches — historic numbers for the area.
As the snowfall intensified, two county residents died from cardiac complications related to shoveling and attempting to clear the grounds, said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
“We send our deepest sympathies and remind all that this snow is very heavy and dangerous,” Poloncarz said. “Please continue to avoid shoveling this very heavy, wet snow — and use caution and avoid overexertion if you must shovel today.”
Winter weather alerts are still in effect for over 6 million people across six Great Lakes states Saturday morning — Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Forecasters and officials have been sounding the alarm on the life-threatening nature of this snowstorm, which is historic even for the Buffalo region where heavy snow is the norm during winter months.
And the forceful snowfall is expected to continue through the weekend with little periods of relief.
A state of emergency remains in effect, and Dan Neaverth Jr., Homeland Security Commissioner for Erie County, said he did not expect travel restrictions to go away any time soon.
Dozens of flights arriving and departing from Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled as storm conditions worsened, according to the airport’s website.
This month is already Buffalo’s third snowiest November at the airport thanks to the storm, according to the local weather service.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told CNN on Saturday that, while his city is used to heavy snow, this is “much more than we usually get.”
He said the city could return to “some sense of normalcy” by Monday or Tuesday, assuming the worst of the storm passes through by Sunday.
“This has been a very unpredictable storm with the snow bands moving, back and forth, north to south,” Brown said. “The snow has come down very fast, very wet, very heavy.”
The colossal storm has been pounding the region for days, prompting local and state officials to issue states of emergencies to bolster response. But with a storm that big, it only takes one or two vehicles to slow down clearing operations, Poloncarz noted.
“A reminder to all employers: if your business is located in a driving ban area or your employees are currently in a driving ban area, it is illegal to make them come into work,” Poloncarz said online.
The snowstorm, which came with a forecast for the Buffalo region not seen in more than 20 years, has been making travel miserable for many drivers, despite authorities’ emphasis on staying off the roads.
Snow has been falling for an extended period of time at rapid pace, making it difficult for crews to respond.
“In some cases, we are going to far surpass 5 feet of snow and that’s in a 21-hour period of time,” said Bill Geary, the county’s public works commissioner. “It’s a remarkable amount of time.”
Blasdell, about eight miles from Buffalo, recorded 65 inches as of 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Several locations in the region were hit with at least 3 to 4 feet of snow, including Hamburg (51 inches), Elma (48 inches), East Aurora (43.7 inches) and West Seneca (36 inches).
Meanwhile, a massive winter snow storm has hit the state of Texas, bringing with it heavy snow and ice. It's caused widespread travel chaos and left thousands without power.
The state's governor, Gregg Abbot, said the state is facing one of the most significant icing events in decades.