Bright sunshine poured into metro Buffalo late Wednesday - putting an end to what, for many, was the biggest snowstorm of the winter.
Officially, at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, the storm total was 19.6 inches.
The sudden appearance of the sun was a pleasant surprise on a day that began with blustery winds and more of the constant snow that fell all day Tuesday.
Virtually all schools were closed for a second day throughout the region, plows worked overtime to keep highways open and tractor-trailer trucks were still banned from the Thruway and the Southern Tier Expressway (I-86 and Route 17).
It was bleak enough that some of the offices in Buffalo City Hall closed at 1:30 p.m. due to the weather.
- Day 2: Snow starts to taper off, tractor-trailer ban on Thruway lifted
- Map: How much snow has fallen, and where
- What to expect in the next 36 hours: winds pick up, visibility falls
But by mid-afternoon, it was pretty much over.
The National Weather Service lifted its winter storm warning a few hours early for northern Erie and Niagara counties. Elsewhere, the warning remained in effect until 8 p.m. as cloudy skies and occasional snow showers still prevailed.
Meanwhile, tractor-trailer trucks started rolling again.
“All travel bans are lifted,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared on Twitter shortly after 3 p.m., “because the state roads are clear.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown announced Wednesday afternoon that 25 crews were working to clear streets and sidewalks near KeyBank Center downtown for teams and fans heading to the NCAA tournament basketball games, which begin Thursday.
The mayor said many of the crews were using smaller pieces of equipment, and were not pulled from neighborhoods, where snow clearing efforts are ongoing.
“We have had city crews for the City of Buffalo out around the clock,” Brown said.
All eight college teams in the tournament had arrived here by Wednesday.
Michael Gilbert, Sabres vice president and general manager of HarborCenter, reported Wednesday the arena has sold nearly 19,000 tickets to the tournament series, with only single seats in the 300 level still available.
The snowiest place, according to spotter reports to the National Weather Service, was Lockport with 28.8 inches as of early Wednesday afternoon. Clarendon in Orleans County reported an even 2 feet.
Snow was deeper in the northern counties, thanks to lake-effect snow off Lake Ontario. Depths of 1 to 2 feet were reported in Erie County. Farther south, some places had less than a foot. The exception was the Chautauqua Ridge, where Perrysburg had 23.5 inches at sunrise Wednesday and Forestville had 21.
The snow should start melting today.
Mostly sunny skies are forecast, with highs near 30.
Forecasters say Friday will be start out sunny and be warmer – mid 30s – as mild air moves in ahead of a clipper system. Friday night is expected to start with snow showers, then turn to rain.
Saturday’s outlook is for rain showers alternating with snow showers.
News Staff Reporter Sandy Tan contributed to this report.