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Lake-effect snow winds down; more snow forecast next week

The lake-effect snow in metro Buffalo is ending – for now.

A mini-January thaw is on tap Friday and Saturday with temperatures flirting with the mid-40s, compacting and melting a bunch of the recent snowfall.

But don’t get too comfortable.

Lake Erie is still wide-open – 93 percent of it, as of Wednesday. “There’s potential for some lake-effect next week,” said Steve Welch, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “We’re not throwing any numbers out there, but as of right now, there’s a potential.”

Welch said that next burst of snow could come Monday or Tuesday.

The lake-effect snow warning for Erie and Wyoming counties, due to expire at 7 a.m. Thursday, has been lifted. That’s after 6 to 8 inches of snow fell in parts of the North Towns including the Town of Tonawanda, with around five inches in downtown Buffalo.

The piles of snow there, and across Western New York, will grow a little bit more Thursday when moisture associated with the passage of a warm front brings a general snowfall that will result in another inch. “There’s going to be some snow most of the day,” Welch said.

Forecasts show the winds will shift and come out of the south between about 5 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Saturday, rendering any chance of additional lake-effect snow impossible.

And, it will get warmer.

Friday’s forecast high is 43 degrees and Saturday’s is 36 degrees with rain showers possible both days. The average high temperature for those days is 31 degrees.

“It will solidify and compact a little,” Welch said. “We’ll definitely have a decent amount of melting.”

Wednesday’s lake-effect snow squalls stayed on the move, giving a little taste to everyone.

The day was filled with problems for those in the Southtowns and western Southern Tier, including in some communities that already had picked up two feet of lake-effect snow on Monday.

By late Wednesday morning, severely reduced visibility on the road meant accidents were starting to pile up, starting with a jack-knifed tractor trailer in roughly the same location where a similar accident closed a section of the Thruway between Dunkirk and Westfield on Tuesday.

Ultimately, the Thruway was closed from the Hamburg exit down to Westfield – 49 miles – due to the severe weather and accidents for much of the afternoon, with traffic detoured to side streets as drivers battled white-out conditions.

After starting the day in the Southern Tier, the snow band started its march northward early Wednesday afternoon, arriving in Angola by 3 p.m., Hamburg by 4 p.m. and South Buffalo an hour after that.

City street crews spent the day pre-salting roads in preparation of the snow’s arrival around 5:30 p.m., with snow falling at nearly 3 inches an hour.

Its arrival coincided almost exactly with rush-hour but despite minor accidents, no major injuries were reported as the snow band swept through the city and further north.

At 7 p.m., the band was concentrated across an area that involved the whole city of Buffalo and extended eastward, through suburbs like Clarence and Newstead and into western Genesee County.

A total of 5.3 inches of snow had fallen by 8 p.m. Wednesday at the National Weather Service’s official station at Buffalo Niagara International Airport – nearly all of that coming between 5:30 and 8 p.m.

That snow accounts for more than 40 percent of the total snowfall recorded at the airport all season. And, it came in less than three hours.

The piles of snow there, and across Western New York, will grow a little bit more Thursday when moisture associated with the passage of a warm front brings a general snowfall that will result in another inch.

“There’s going to be some snow most of the day,” Welch said.

Forecasts show the winds will shift and come out of the south between about 5 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Saturday, rendering any chance of additional lake-effect snow impossible.

And, it will get warmer.

Friday’s forecast high is 43 degrees and Saturday’s is 36 degrees with rain showers possible both days. The average high temperature for those days is 31 degrees.

“It will solidify and compact a little,” Welch said. “We’ll definitely have a decent amount of melting.”