Updated: 7:21 p.m.
Snow was traveling across the Southtowns in a lake-effect band at shortly before 7 p.m., according to a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo.
“The worst of the snow is moving through the Southtowns right now,” said Jeff Wood, at the service.
Wood said that there was the potential for a second round of significant snow later on in the evening, which forecasters were monitoring.
Winds were gusting at 30 miles per hour on Friday evening, Wood said.
“It’s also creating blowing and drifting snow,” he said.
Wood said that the snowfall in the band moving through the Southtowns was a few inches an hour.
“It’s snowing two to three inches an hour in that band right now,” he said.
The current band will likely start to subside within the next two to three hours, Wood said.
“Driving in it is not advised,” he said.
Updated: 5:21 p.m.
The lake-effect snow band is now centered over Buffalo and South Buffalo and is expected to stick around, dropping a few more inches of snow for the next hour or so.
National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Welch said there will be some breaks in the snow but that doesn't mean it's over.
Also, forecasters are keeping an eye on a short, 20-minute squall expected to hit around 7 p.m. that will bring whiteout conditions.
Behind the snow is the cold front, which is making its way down to us. It's now over Lake Ontario, near Toronto and also south and west over Lake Erie. We'll start feeling it early this evening.
Snow and wind from the fifth floor of 1 News Plaza pic.twitter.com/UVmuO9lBKJ
— Maki Becker (@makibecker) February 12, 2016
Updated: 4:37 p.m.
Just in time for the commute home, the lake-effect snow band that has been traveling up and down the Niagara Frontier is setting back up over the metro Buffalo area.
Here's the National Weather Service radar from 4:09 p.m.:
So far this rush hour, there have been a couple of incidents on the Niagara Thruway in Niagara County. An accident was reported at 4:21 p.m. on the southbound side at Exit 21 (Buffalo Ave.) which closed the left lane and there's a disabled vehicle on the northbound side beyond Exit 20 (Long Road), closing the right lane. There have also been multiple reports of cars in ditches throughout Niagara County.
Winds were picking up and the snow was starting to come down harder in downtown Buffalo.
Update: 3:38 p.m.
The lake-effect snow band is back over metro Buffalo and will likely cause some traffic headaches for folks heading out of downtown for the long weekend.
"It's going to be a nasty commute," warned Jeff Wood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The band hit downtown in the pre-dawn hours Friday before shifting south, and then drifting back over metro Buffalo around the noon hour before continuing north.
But now it's back and it'll make for some miserable driving conditions.
Snow is expected to fall at a rate of one to three inches per hour at times. "We're going to see some significant snowfall rates," Woods said.
Winds are also picking up. Right now, they're gusting as high as 37 mph which will cause even more difficult driving conditions.
The temperature is 22 degrees - the warmest it will be all day -- but with the wind chill it'll feel more like 5 degrees outside.
Later Friday night, a quick, but ferocious squall is expected to hit the area for about 20 minutes - sometime between 7 and 9 p.m. Behind that will be the Arctic front that will bring a deep freeze to the region.
Update: 3 p.m.
Heavy snow continues to fall from Grand Island, across Niagara County and through to about Medina.
Traffic is backing up on the northbound Niagara Thruway in Grand Island around the Long Road exit. Here's a screen shot of from a New York State Thruway Authority traffic camera, via NITTEC:
The lake-effect snow band is expected to shift south and will bring snow to metro Buffalo starting at about 3:30 p.m.
Update: 2:36 p.m.
The heaviest snow right now is falling from along a line from Grand Island, through North Tonawanda, Pendelton, Lockport, Gasport, Middleport and stretching into Medina.
"Right now, Grand Island is getting hit pretty good. It's pretty much white-out conditions, especially in the middle of the island," said Steve Welch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Buffalo. It's coming down at a rate of about 2 inches per hour, maybe some pockets as much as 3 inches per hour.
Just had a scary white knuckle drive through a blizzard in Lockport. Coming down thick and fast.
— Nancy Fischer (@NancyFbuffnews) February 12, 2016
The band is expected to stay about that intense as it shifts back south over downtown, starting with light snow about 3:30 p.m. and then getting heavier.
As the winds shift later this evening after sunset, watch out for short 20-minute squall that will create white-out conditions between 7 and 9 p.m.
Saturday, look for extreme cold. A little snow may fall but blowing snow could be the bigger issue, Welch said.
Update: 2:07 p.m.
News Staff Reporter Aaron Besecker reports that the lake-effect snow was hitting Grand Island hard just before 2 p.m. Traffic on the Grand Island bridge was slow, no more than 30 mph, and drivers were using their flashers. Visibility at times was down to about 100 yards.
But as soon as you get off the bridge in Niagara Falls, it's barely snowing, but there's more snow further into Niagara Falls.
Here's a picture of the radar of where the long and narrow band of snow is.
Update: 1:30 p.m.
The lake-effect snow band is hovering over the Northtowns and Niagara Falls early Friday afternoon - but it's expected to shift back south to the metro Buffalo area just in time for the afternoon commute.
The National Weather Service is forecasting that the snow band will hit the downtown area at around 4 p.m. and will stick around until about 6 p.m. Commuters should keep that in mind, considering it's also a Friday before a three-day holiday for many.
And here's a heads up for later this evening: Meteorologist Dave Zaff warned that a short but potentially dangerous squall is expected to hit the region sometime after sunset. "It will come through between 7 and 9 p.m.," he said.
"It will produce a short period - 20 minutes - of white out conditions," Zaff said. "That's a dangerous scenario."
The snow band will then drift into the Southtowns and Southern Tier before the deep chill strikes.
Update: 12:42 p.m.
The left lane on the I-190 South has reopened beyond the Sheridan Drive exit, according to the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition.
A multi-vehicle crash had closed both southbound lanes for approximately 30 minutes.
— Derek Gee (@DerekGeePhoto) February 12, 2016
Among the vehicles involved are a tractor-trailer, a dump truck and a car, which was partially underneath the tractor-trailer.
The backup from the crash/closure extends more than a mile.
Update: 11:51 a.m.
"We're expecting the band to shift around quite a bit," said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Ansuini.
From the early afternoon until around rush hour, lake-effect snow will be cranked out in the city, extending to the Northtowns and southern Niagara and western Orleans counties.
That's where the bands are predicted to stay until around the evening rush hour when the bands will quickly move back south. When the lake-effect merges with an arctic front, there could be snow squall conditions - with gusty winds and reduced visibility, "almost like a brief white out," Ansuini said.
Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak, during a late-morning news conference, said city crews are already out treating roads preparing for the evening rush hour.
Overall today, forecasters are predicting between about 6 to 12 inches in parts of Erie and Genesee counties, depending on exactly where the hard-to-predict snow bands end up spending most of their time.
The heaviest snowfall rates will reach an inch per hour, maybe 2 inches an hour.
"It's going to probably add up pretty quickly," Ansuini said.
After 7 p.m., the heaviest snowfall will shift into the Southern Tier and things will begin to taper off in the Buffalo area.
The morning commute in some areas became a little treacherous.
After the city got whacked early Friday morning, the snow bands have shifted to the south. The snow band had broken up as of about 8:30 a.m., with some strongest snow falling in parts of the southern half of Erie County and in Dunkirk.
At 8 a.m., the Erie County Department of Public Works reported 3 inches of snow had fallen in its Hamburg district.
Around 7:30 a.m., snowfall had let up in Orchard Park, though the roads remained slick.
By shortly after 6:30 a.m., the steady snowfall had moved out of downtown and the Elmwood Village area with the heaviest snows coming down in the Southtowns, including Blasdell and Lackawanna.
The strongest bands will dump 1 to 2 inches of snowfall per hour.
Related story: What to expect in the next 36 hours (and beyond)
There were reports of two vehicles hitting utility poles in South Buffalo around 6 a.m.
Just before 6 a.m., the lake-effect snow band covered much of the metro area, including Buffalo, Lackawanna, Cheektowaga and West Seneca, almost reaching as far east as Clarence and Alden, Ansuini said.
"Right now, the heart of it's in the city," Ansuini said.
Around that time, steady snow was falling as far north as the Ontario Street exit on the I-190.
Lake-effect snow hit the downtown area around 5 a.m. as bands moved north. Forecasters are predicting 8 to 14 inches of snow in the most persistent bands by tonight.
Bracing for the weather, Buffalo Public Schools are closed Friday. Officials made the announcement at about 5:30 a.m.
The northern edge of the lake-effect snow was near the Peace Bridge shortly before 5 a.m., with very light snow falling. By about 5:15 a.m., snowfall downtown had picked up.
Salt trucks were seen treating ramps on the I-190 on Grand Island shortly after 4:30 a.m.
Buffalo News Photojournalist Mark Mulville contributed to this report.