Buffalo’s National Weather Service takes an unusually dire tone in its forecast.The episode could be “crapped.”Thursday through Saturday will see 36 hours of thunderstorms and near-blizzard conditions. Rapid accumulation is expected to continue. The heaviest snowfall is expected Thursday night through Friday night.
Snow rates can become excessive, exceeding 2-3 inches per hour, outpacing even the fastest shovels and snow blowers. Heavy snow and gusts of wind up to 35 mph severely limit visibility.
“Travel will go from difficult to impossible,” the weather agency warned. “Some major roads may be temporarily closed.”
Liz Djulkowski, a meteorologist for the Buffalo Weather Service, said she is struggling to spread the word to local agencies the agency supports. “This is going to be a big deal,” she told The Washington Post.
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Complicating the prediction is the local nature of lake-effect snow, which falls in swaths only a few miles wide. Like a summer thunderstorm, it means that one community can be hit hard while nearby areas remain untouched.
The Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for the generally vulnerable snow belts downwind of the lake, with winter storm monitors or winter weather warnings in place in surrounding counties. That’s where forecasters aren’t confident about meandering snow belts, but are issuing warnings to raise awareness of the potential for larger impacts.
Deposits are expected to be approximately 2-3 feet within Buffalo city limits. However, the Bureau of Meteorology warns that if the main snow belt persists, the amount could reach 4 feet. Only 30 miles to the south, it could be as little as 2-4 inches.
Off Lake Ontario, the heaviest in total will pile up east of Chaumont Bay and Henderson Bay near and north of Watertown, a city of about 25,000 in western New York. Typically 1 to 3 feet is possible, but more is undeniable.
Outside the two main snow belts, cities such as Rochester and Geneva, or cities further north in Old Forge and Utica, may see only an inch or two of snow cover.
Wild snow is instigated by stubborn high-altitude turbulence, or pockets of frigid air, low pressure, and high-altitude gyrations. Surrounded by jet stream depressions, it sits above the Great Lakes on Thursday. It then continues to dive east-southeast, circling directly over Lake Ontario before passing through New England.
The placement of its upper level system directs a steady flow of west-southwest winds along the entire lake fetch. Bone-chilling air blowing longitudinally along the water, in contrast to water temperatures in the low fifties, allows large amounts of moisture to rise into the atmosphere. This creates moderate to strong convection, or vertical heat transfer. In other words, the same process that produces a summer thunderstorm, except it snows.
The same massive atmospheric setting that is set to fill Buffalo and Watertown is blowing cold air across the northeastern United States, bringing winter temperatures down in contrast to the unseasonably mild temperatures of the previous week. In contrast to
Jurkowski compared the looming snowstorm to a record-breaking fragmentation event in mid-November 2014 that dropped up to 88 inches of snow. While Jackpot was in Wyoming County, New York, schools were closed in Buffalo for over a week and Interstate 90 was closed. The storm killed 26 people, most of them as a result of a heart attack while shoveling snow. The New York National Guard was brought in to help clear the snow.
“I have [another event of this magnitude] We’re comparing it to 2000,” Jurkowski said. “Before that, there were some things in the 1980s that don’t happen very often.”
She explained that the biggest snowfall will begin Thursday night, but a band of snow will continue through Sunday.
“The band may swing north on Saturday, but it will swing south on Sunday,” she explained, referring to subtle changes in wind patterns. We’re not just looking at one day, this is a few days.”
Buffalo averages about 90 inches of snowfall per year. Residents are used to snowfall, but Jurgoswki tried to remind people that this was on another level.
“People around here say that the lake’s influence [be] It’s very localized and depends on how the wind blows, but we all need to be prepared to be safe,” she said.