What Buffalo area can expect from new lake-effect snowstorm

The lake-effect band snow band that pummeled central Erie County overnight Wednesday reorganized and intensified as it headed north in the morning and back south Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service Buffalo at midday shared projected new snow totals through late Thursday.

Two to 2.5 feet were expected in the heaviest-hit areas, including the already hard-hit Southtowns, with a foot to 18 inches expected in the City of Buffalo on top of what was dumped during a storm over the holiday weekend.

The county on Wednesday responded to larger-than-anticipated amounts of snow that fell overnight. A narrow band dropped at least 2 feet of snow in parts of Hamburg, Orchard Park and West Seneca overnight – including 31.5 inches in Lackawanna – and headed north Wednesday morning to wreak weather-related havoc in the City of Buffalo and Northtowns.

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North Tonawanda in Niagara County declared a state of emergency and travel ban Wednesday afternoon, to remain in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday, unless poor weather conditions persist.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz urged all businesses in the county to close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, before the storm’s anticipated southward movement. Driving bans remained in effect in South Buffalo south of Broadway, Hamburg, Lackawanna, Orchard Park, West Seneca, Cheektowaga and Lancaster, and all villages within. 

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said those in the city outside the travel ban Wednesday afternoon also should return home, before the lake-effect band heads through Buffalo again. Brown reiterated that the portion of Buffalo north of Broadway remains under a travel advisory, in which there’s no unnecessary travel.

The City of Buffalo opened a fourth emergency warming shelter on Wednesday evening, adding Lincoln Field House on Quincy Street on the border of Emerson and Lovejoy neighborhoods in the East Side to JFK Recreation Center, Machnica Center in Kaisertown and Tosh Collins Community Center in South Buffalo.

The Skyway is closed in both directions, Brown said on X. The Peace Bridge is closed to commercial trucks entering the United States. Commercial vehicles are banned from traveling on Interstate-190 in both directions and on the I-90 between the Corning exit (46) and the Pennsylvania state line.

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“It feels like one of those days you’re waiting for the league and city officials to make a decision. Our job is to be ready for tonight’s game until otherwise notified,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.

A lake-effect snow warning remains in effect in Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties until 7 p.m. Thursday. 

Most schools in Erie County were closed Wednesday, as well as county offices and the Buffalo division of the U.S. District Court. The same may well be the case on Thursday. 

Buffalo Public Schools announced early Wednesday afternoon the district will be closed Thursday. 

Sheriff John C. Garcia announced visiting hours are canceled for the Erie County Holding Center in downtown Buffalo and the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden for the rest of the week due to the forecast. 

Don Paul, Buffalo News contributor and longtime meteorologist, said the band’s coverage over Lake Erie overnight into Wednesday lifted a significant amount of moisture, while frigid temperatures produced more fluffy snow, bumping accumulation higher than anticipated. Lackawanna, for example, received 2.5 feet of new snow overnight. 

Snow cleanup plow

A City of Lackawanna plow works on South Park Avenue on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

Today: Snow on the move

The National Weather Service said the band of lake-effect snow moved north into the City of Buffalo early this morning, and drifted into northern Erie County.

“It’s moving right now, it’s shifting slowly north,” Kirk Apffel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said at mid-morning. “Over next couple hours it’s going to change its focus from the Southtowns to basically be centered across the downtown area, extending up to Williamsville.”

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Highway crews spent Tuesday pushing snow piles back, widening roads and carting snow from cul-de-sacs and dead end streets to make room for more snow.

Apffel said the storm would probably weaken a bit during the northern shift.

One to 2 feet of snow “will be common” in the heavy snow areas, with some getting up to 3 feet, he said.

“Some of the Southtowns have already gotten really hard hit, but fortunately it’s moved out of the hardest-hit areas,” the meteorologist said.

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Employers can visit erie.gov/dhses and complete the Emergency Travel Form. The county will review the form and help determine whether employees are “essential” and exempt from travel restrictions. 

Winds will gust as high as 40 mph, causing blowing and drifting snow with near whiteout conditions at times, particularly this afternoon and evening. It will be mostly cloudy, with a high of 17.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility,” the weather service said. “Bitter wind chills as low as 10 below zero could result in hypothermia if precautions are not taken.”

Wednesday evening: Heavy snow possible

Expect occasional snow that could be heavy at times, with widespread blowing snow mainly before midnight. There could be 10 to 14 inches of new snow overnight in some areas.

The low will be around 15. 

Thursday: Even more snow

There should be snow in the morning with snow showers in the afternoon, with a high near 23. The snow could be heavy at times. An additional 5 to 9 inches of snow is possible in some areas. Paul said more widespread snowfall in the region would join a narrow but still active lake-effect band.

“With a lighter wind, the snow will be more manageable,” Paul forecasted. “Temperatures will moderate a bit, so the ratio/density of the snow will be a little less fluffy. All in all, whiteouts will be less likely.”

The lake-effect snow warning issued by the National Weather Service will continue until 7 p.m. for Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties. 

Friday morning: Snow continues

Snow is likely, with a high near 24.

A lake-effect snow warning is in effect through Thursday for Erie County. Travel could be very difficult to impossible and will impact the morning or evening commutes. Not only that, winds and below-average temperatures will keep wind chills below 0 at times. Meteorologist Joe Martucci has the forecast.

Are the Bills and Chiefs going to play Sunday?

There has been no discussion about moving the time or location of the next Buffalo Bills home playoff game.

Bills officials expressed confidence that snow will be removed from the stadium in time for the game with the Kansas City Chiefs, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday. They expect to ask for more snow shovelers after the latest snowfall ends.

Ben Tsujimoto can be reached at btsujimoto@buffnews.com, at (716) 849-6927 or on Twitter at @Tsuj10.

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