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Snow and freezing rain expected to ice roads

Winter wasn’t going to let Western New York escape 2015 that easily.

Most area roads got a generous coating of salt for the first time this season, as the arrival of snow, freezing rain and sleet Monday night made for slippery driving conditions across the region.

Town of Tonawanda Highway Superintendent William E. Swanson had a fleet of 10 salt trucks out Monday night, after the roads had been pretreated during the day. December 28 is the latest he remembers sending trucks out on their inaugural runs.

“I’ve been there 40 years now and this is the first time I remember it this late,” he said.

Up to 2 inches of snow was expected across Western New York, followed by a gradual change to freezing rain and sleet until midnight, said Jon Hitchcock, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

“It’s going to be slippery for the next five or six hours,” Hitchcock said just before 6 p.m.

Untreated roads were likely to see icy conditions, and bridges, overpasses and elevated ramps were expected to be slippery. There were multiple reports Monday evening of cars sliding off roadways.

City of Buffalo crews late Monday afternoon began pre-salting roads, bridges and overpasses, police reported on the department’s official Twitter page.

The weather service has issued a winter weather advisory for all of Western New York until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Up to one-third of an inch of ice could coat surfaces, trees and electric lines, according to the weather advisory.

Gusty winds will be added to the mix, with a high-wind advisory – predicting gusts up to 50 mph – expected until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Winds were forecast to be stronger along the Lake Erie shore, with gusts of up to 60 mph predicted for southern Erie and Chautauqua counties.

The wintry blast of mixed precipitation is part of a major winter storm that’s pushing north from the Midwest.

But after midnight, temperatures rising above freezing were expected to melt any accumulated snow and ice before the morning commute.

“It’s actually not a big deal, because it’s going to melt over the night,” Swanson said.

By daybreak Tuesday, temperatures were forecast to rise to the low 40s and to a high in the mid-40s by the afternoon. A few scattered rainshowers will stick around, but Tuesday looks otherwise dry, Hitchcock said.

“For the most part it will dry out in the afternoon,” he said.

An extended period of cold is forecast when a cold front arrives Wednesday night. Some parts of the region will see some lake-effect snow towards the end of the week, as well as a couple of compact storms that will bring a general snowfall to the area.

“It looks like we’re done with the run of well-above temperatures that we had,” Hitchcock said, adding that winter has arrived “a little late, but it’s here finally.” Despite the mild weather in recent days, winter officially arrived on Dec. 21.

Highway crews finally had to dig in to their full salt barns. But Swanson brushed off Monday night’s event as minor.

“It’s winter, it happens,” Swanson said. “That’s what we’re in the business for.”