It was the snowiest of days. It was the clearest of days.
Tuesday told a tale of two winters in Western New York. Up to 15 inches of snow was on the ground in areas hit by two days of lake-effect squalls. Everywhere else there was a thin covering of white or nothing at all.
On the receiving end was a string of communities on either side of a line that stretched from Silver Creek on the shores of Lake Erie through Gowanda, Springville, Warsaw and on to Nunda in Livingston County.
Schools were closed for the day in southern Erie County and northern Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. At one point in the morning, more than a dozen cars were stuck along the Thruway between Hamburg and Dunkirk.
Winter sports facilities, struggling with one of the warmest most snow-free winters in years, welcomed the weather.
At Peek 'n Peak in Clymer, which closed Friday due to lack of snow, 3 inches fell. Ski operators were making more and planned to reopen Thursday. Seven inches blanketed Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, which had scaled back operations to just three slopes, while Kissing Bridge in Glenwood measured 12 inches and prepared to reopen Thursday.
Snow was deepest in and around Warsaw, which reported 13 inches, and near Arcade, where there was 15 inches.
In the Buffalo area and Niagara County, streets were clear and lawns were green until mid-evening, when stray squalls drifted down from Lake Ontario. From 8:30 to 9:15 p.m., there were five collisions on the Niagara Thruway, which was extremely slippery between Grand Island and the Scajaquada Expressway, officials said. Snow with wet and icy spots made travel treacherous on the mainline Thruway west from the Pembroke exchange.
Three people were taken to Erie County Medical Center just after 9 p.m. after a crash involving as many as five cars on the Youngmann Expressway near Harlem Road, Amherst fire officials said. Details were unavailable late Tuesday, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, officials said.
The sharp wind, meanwhile, was universal. It gusted to 30 mph in places, and wind chills were in the teens.
Brisk winds and snow showers were forecast to continu, with highs in the upper 20s. A thaw is expected Thursday, with temperatures in the 40s.