Blast of lake-effect snow makes some commutes tricky - The Buffalo News

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Blast of lake-effect snow makes some commutes tricky

It’s not Christmas yet – but it sure looks a lot more like it today in some areas.

Parts of the city and suburbs were coated with snow Tuesday, in a burst of winter weather that made some commutes tricky and evening engagements – from the Buffalo Sabres game to after-school activities – a little more challenging.

Lake-effect snows hit the region in time for the afternoon commute, but departed in a few hours’ time.

The blast had dropped 1.1 inches at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by the evening hours, according to Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga. There was more snow in parts of the Northtowns, he said.

“It was intense, but brief,” Hibbert said of the snowy spell. “Other locations did get more.”

“At times visibility was less than a quarter of a mile,” he said.

The lake-effect snow bands were retreating southward, where they were predicted to affect the Southtowns and Southern Tier through early Thursday morning.

“This is a prolonged lake-effect event,” said Hibbert.

As much as a foot and a half of snow is forecast for some areas.

“It’s going to be hard to see a foot and a half on the ground. You’ll see a foot and a half in measured totals,” said Hibbert, referring to snowfall totals. “There may be some areas with 18 inches on the ground – but it’s going to be hard, because of the wind.”

The most snowfall will likely be in the usual snow-country areas, including parts of Chautauqua County, western Cattaraugus County, southern Erie County and central Wyoming County, Hibbert said.

Despite the fact that it snarled traffic – and daily agendas – across the area, the storm Tuesday was not in the running with the day that was a record-setter for snowfall in one 24-hour period in Buffalo. In fact, it was not even close.

That came in 1995 – on the same day in December, as a matter of fact.

On Dec. 10 of that year, Buffalo got walloped with a massive lake-effect storm that stalled over the area and dropped a heavy blanket of snow – some 33.9 inches worth.

That’s a record not only for the date, but any date in Buffalo’s recorded weather history.

And most of that snow fell in just eight hours’ time, as snowfall rates then approached 2-4 inches per hour.

The snowfall that happened Tuesday might have evoked some memories of 1995 – if briefly.

The band of snow gathered right about the 4 p.m. schedule that had been posted by the National Weather Service. It gained in intensity, and was hitting the metro area by the early evening hours.

But here’s a wintry weather fact: The storm that dumped snow on the Buffalo region is not related to the weather unsettling the Eastern Seaboard.

Those areas are dealing with an unrelated low pressure system that moved up through the middle Atlantic states, bringing heavy snow to the Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City areas.

Tuesday’s weather here was likely just a prelude of what is to come, forecasters said.

As of late in the day, forecasted snow totals were 14 to 18 inches for some outlying areas of Western New York, meteorologists said.

Winds from the west and southwest ranging from 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts of 45 miles an hour, in some parts of the region could cause visibility problems.

“At Dunkirk, we had a wind speed of 42 knots – which equates to 48 miles an hour, and gusts of 54 miles an hour,” said Hibbert. That high wind was reported at around 7 p.m. Tuesday, he said.

High temperatures today are forecast to be in the mid 20s, with lows in the low teens to single digits.

Where will Thursday top out?

It probably won’t even be out of the teens for a daytime high, weather experts said.

The upcoming weekend, forecasters said, also includes the chance of another snowstorm – a more widespread one with more general coverage, Hibbert said.

“We’re building up the bank,” Hibbert said, “to keep a white Christmas.”

News staff reporter Janice L. Habuda contributed to this report. email: and

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