Buffalo snow: Historic storm slams western New York with nearly 6 feet of snow


A historic blizzard hit western New York state on Saturday with more than 6 feet of snow in some places, closing roads, prompting driving restrictions and flight cancellations the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Extreme snow “will produce near-zero visibility, make travel impossible, damage infrastructure, and could cripple the hardest-hit communities,” the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday morning.

Snowfall totals of more than 6 feet have been recorded in two locations, according to the National Weather Service. Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, has received 77.0 inches in the last 48 hours, and Natural Bridge, just east of Watertown, has received 72.3 inches – a historic number for the area.

As the snowfall intensified, two county residents died of cardiac complications related to shoveling and trying to clear the grounds, said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

“We send our deepest sympathies and remind everyone that this snow is very heavy and dangerous,” Poloncarz said. “Please continue to avoid shoveling this very heavy snow – and be careful and don’t overdo it if you have to shovel now.”

Winter weather warnings were still in effect for more than 6 million people in six Great Lakes states Saturday morning — Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Forecasters and officials have sounded the alarm about the life-threatening nature of this blizzard, ie historic even for the Buffalo area where heavy snow is the norm during the winter months. And heavy snowfall is expected to continue through the weekend with little relief.

blizzard vpx screengrab

See the snow building as New York faces a historic snowstorm

The northeast area of ​​Lake Ontario – from the center of Jefferson County to the north of Lewis County – was inundated with heavy snow late Friday, when the rate of snowfall was up to 3 inches per hour, according to the weather service in Buffalo. The area between Watertown and Harrisville also saw treacherous conditions.

A state of emergency remains in effect, and Dan Neaverth Jr., Homeland Security Commissioner for Erie County, said he doesn’t expect the travel ban to be lifted anytime soon.

“Today is Saturday. There is no reason to be outside now,” he said.

Dozens of flights arriving and departing from Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled due to severe storm conditions, according to the airport’s website.

This month has been the third snowiest Buffalo November at the airport thanks to the storm, according to local weather service.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told CNN on Saturday that, while the city is used to heavy snow, this was “a lot more than we’re used to getting.”

He said the city could return to “some sense of normalcy” by Monday or Tuesday, assuming the worst of the storm passes by Sunday.

“This has been a very unpredictable storm with snow bands moving, back and forth, north to south,” said Brown. “It’s snowing very fast, very wet, very heavy.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday she was from Hamburg, south of Buffalo.

“But despite that history, in that context, this is a record book,” he told CNN. “The most snowfall in a 24-hour period is probably in the history of the country. We will have the actual numbers soon.”

The colossal storm has battered the region for days, prompting local and state officials to issue a state of emergency to ramp up the response. But with a large storm, it only takes one or two vehicles to slow down cleanup operations, Poloncarz said.

“A reminder to all employers: if your business is in a driving restriction area or your employees are currently in a driving restriction area, it is illegal to make them work,” said Poloncarz. online.

The blizzard, which arrived with forecasts for the Buffalo region not seen in more than 20 years, has made travel difficult for many drivers, despite pressure from authorities to stay off the roads.

A loader on Friday digs out the parking lot in Hamburg, New York, after an intense lake effect snowstorm dumped several feet of snow around Buffalo and surrounding suburbs.

“I can say that our deputies have been absolutely inundated with calls for service as it pertains to disabled motor vehicles and stranded motorists,” said Erie County Undersheriff William J. Cooley during a news conference Friday night. “We ask citizens to just, please, obey the travel restrictions, you become part of the problem as soon as you go out on the streets.”

Erie County issued a combination of travel restrictions and travel advisories Friday, including travel restrictions for parts of southern Buffalo.

More than 300 citations were issued to drivers who violated travel restrictions, Poloncarz said late Friday.

“Please, don’t be the reason that the ambulance can’t go to the hospital,” he said. “There are a lot of vehicles that are not only stuck but are just abandoned by their owners.”

Heather Ahmed uses a shovel to dig a path next to a vehicle after a severe lake effect snowstorm affected the area Friday in Hamburg, New York.

Snow has been falling for an extended period of time at a rapid rate, making it difficult for crews to react.

“In some cases, we’ll get far beyond 5 feet of snow and that’s in a 21-hour period,” said Bill Geary, the county’s public works commissioner. “It was an amazing time.”


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