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Bitter cold arrives, up to 6 inches of snow in metro Buffalo Friday

Thursday morning is frigid in Buffalo, with single-digit temperatures and below-zero wind chills. But metro Buffalo won't see any new snow until during the day on Friday.

At 6:30 a.m., the wind chill in Buffalo was minus 8 and was minus 7 in Niagara Falls, according to the National Weather Service. The air temperature at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was 9 degrees.

But the deepest freeze is yet to come, as daytime highs on Saturday are expected to top out around zero.

"The core of the coldest air will settle over us over the weekend," said meteorologist Tony Ansuini.

Lake-effect snow watches and warnings are in effect across Western New York for later today and Friday with up to 10 inches of snow possible in some locations.

Lake-effect snow warnings are in place until 4 p.m. today for southern Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. That means between 6 and 10 inches of accumulation is expected in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, with 3 to 6 inches on tap up north through the early afternoon.

It's not as common for lake-effect snowstorms to grip the region off of Lake Erie this late in the season, but the warmer than usual autumn and first-half of winter has combined to keep the lake more than 99 percent free of ice, as of Wednesday. Lake Erie is normally more than 68 percent covered in ice by this date.

Lake Erie (pictured here on Feb. 6) was more than 99 percent free of ice on Wednesday. A blast of cold air and a southwest flow is expected to bring lake-effect snow into the metro area Friday. (NOAA GLERL)

Lake Erie (pictured here on Feb. 6) was more than 99 percent free of ice on Wednesday. A blast of cold air and a southwest flow is expected to bring lake-effect snow into the metro area Friday. (NOAA GLERL)

Now, the right atmospheric conditions - cold temperatures, available moisture and wind direction - are in place along with the wide-open, relatively warm lake waters to put the Buffalo Niagara region under the gun for mid-February lake-effect snow.

Forecast models weren't in full agreement early Thursday, but it appeared as though the Buffalo metro area could see a blast of lake-effect snow during the day Friday.

That prompted the National Weather Service to issue a lake-effect snow watch for northern Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and Genesee counties from later tonight through Friday night. Six inches or more of snow is possible where the most persistent snows fall, weather service officials said. Westerly wind gusts of 35 mph could reduce visibility to as low as one-quarter mile with blowing and drifting snow expected.

Northwest winds shift by about dinnertime today and become southwesterly just after midnight.

That could allow for a significant "fetch" off of Lake Erie that, depending on the exact direction of the wind, could deposit heavy snow into the Buffalo metro area.

Forecasters were still trying to pinpoint that early this morning.

Lake-effect watches and warnings are in effect through Friday evening across WNY. (NWS)

Lake-effect watches and warnings are in effect through Friday evening across WNY. (NWS)

Meanwhile, in counties both north and south of the metro area, lake-effect snow warnings are in place through 4 p.m. Thursday with a watch following that through Friday.

Places like Jamestown, Olean, Orchard Park and Springville were under warnings for lake-effect snow off of Lake Erie with possible lake enhancement from as far away as Lake Huron.

By Thursday afternoon, 5 to 10 inches of snow was forecast in areas where the most persistent bands are located. Then, an additional 6 to 12 inches of snow in the second round of the lake-effect event late Thursday into Friday was possible in those areas. Winds gusting up to 40 mph would make travel hazardous.

Storm totals could approach two feet in some areas of southern Erie, Chautauqua or Cattaraugus counties, the weather service reported.

Four to eight inches of snow was possible in Niagara and Orleans counties by late this afternoon due to the northwest flow off of Lake Ontario. Those areas were not expected to see much more snow in the second round, however, because of the shifting wind direction.

A drastic turn for the cold is also in store after all of the lake snows finally start to subside heading into the weekend.

Temperatures will remain in the teens today, drop to about 11 degrees overnight and rebound into the low 20s for Friday.

But, a "powerful Arctic front" will push southward late Friday night, inviting frigid air from the Arctic regions into Western New York.

That will cause temperatures to plunge.

Friday's overnight low is forecast to be zero degrees with a north wind that could make it feel like 20 degrees below zero.

The thermometer will only rebound to about 2 degrees on Saturday before dropping below zero Saturday night.

Valentine's Day looks to remain chilly, with a chance for snow showers then partly sunny, the weather service reported.

The high Sunday is forecast to be 12 degrees.

While the frigid temperatures will last at least through the weekend, high temperatures will be back in the 30s next week, forecasters said.

 

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