2014 greets Western New York with an Arctic blast - The Buffalo News
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2014 greets Western New York with an Arctic blast

About the only thing that hasn’t frozen is the date.

Welcome to 2014. Boy, it’s cold.

Buffalo Niagara, and much of the Northeast, woke up to a bitterly frigid New Year’s morning thanks to a “fresh Arctic air mass” that, combined with gusty winds, pushed through Tuesday, dropping temperatures dramatically and sending wind chills plummeting to below zero degrees.

That was just the beginning.

A “very strong northwest flow” will pull even deeper Arctic air into the region over the next few days, according to Kirk Apffel, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo, who said the mercury could drop below zero Thursday night and remain frigid through the end of the week.

“Typically, we’ll get one to two Arctic blasts per year. This is one of them,” Apffel said. “It’s just a very cold flow coming across the North Pole.”

That frigid air, combined with other ingredients, will set up significant lake-effect snows in the Southern Tier, across the traditionally hard-hit Tug Hill Plateau east of Lake Ontario and, merging with another storm system, set up the possibility for significant snowfall along the East Coast from around the New York City area through southern New England, forecasters project.

“What’s causing it is less important than what’s happening,” Apffel added. “It’s a persistent northwest flow that keeps bringing in progressively colder air.”

Though Buffalo Niagara can expect to receive a light, steady general snowfall as the result of the expected coastal storm, areas such as New York City and southern Connecticut could see up to eight inches or more with strong, gusty winds. The weather service posted a winter storm watch in those areas for late Thursday into Friday.

“Most of our impact will be lake-effect,” said Aaron Reynolds, weather service meteorologist.

Lake-effect snow associated with the cold blast was already piling up Tuesday. A spotter in Perrysburg reported 10 inches as of midafternoon New Year’s Eve. Weather service spotters also measured more than 2 inches in both East Aurora and Elma.

A lake-effect snow advisory remained posted for southern Erie, Wyoming and Allegany counties through this morning, with as much as 8 inches of snow possible. Even more is forecast in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, where a lake-effect snow warning was in effect. Up to nine inches of snow was expected by this morning with additional accumulations during the day.

The frigid weather – which stretches from Montana to Maine – promises to make today’s 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic at the University of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, the coldest by far for the annual outdoor game, the first of which was hosted by Buffalo in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The average temperature for the previous five Winter Classic games is 39.1 degrees, according to NHL.com. Today’s forecast in Ann Arbor calls for a daytime high of 16 degrees with wind-chill values near zero and snowy conditions. It’s even colder further to the west where the mercury fell to minus-29 degrees in portions of northern Minnesota. A minus-30 reading in nearby Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Buffalo Sabres took on the Jets Tuesday night, brought about some Internet banter from the Buffalo team.

“I don’t know how I skated outdoor as a kid here,” tweeted Sabres captain Steve Ott on Tuesday. “Getting soft.”

The Queen City will get a chance to taste some of that cold Arctic air – though not Winnipeg cold – starting tonight, when temperatures are forecast to drop to about 10 degrees.

The mercury will rebound slightly into the low teens Thursday before dropping to zero Thursday night. Friday’s daytime high is expected to be in the single digits, then drop close to zero again Friday night before rebounding for the weekend. The early weekend forecast promises some relief, with temperatures in the lower 30s, which is near January’s average daytime high of 31 degrees.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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