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CITY, NEARBY SUBURBS ESCAPE LAKE-EFFECT

Buffalo and its inner-ring suburbs were spared overnight, as bands of heavy lake-effect snow blew into the extreme northern and southern ends of Western New York, dumping 2 1/2 inches on Colden and from 6 to 10 inches on parts of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

The gusty, swirling winds that had torn at unsecured outdoor holiday decorations brought in a fresh batch of cold Canadian air, which was expected to keep temperatures below normal for the next couple of days, the National Weather Service reported.

"We've got a chance for snow showers all through the week," meteorologist Bill Hibbert said today, although the snow could mix with rain later in the week when temperatures warm up a bit.

The ski country south of the city was expected to pick up several more inches of snow tonight; a lake-effect snow warning has been posted for Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties through today.

Temperatures were expected to dip into the teens tonight across Western New York, with high temperatures reaching the mid-20s on Tuesday, the National Weather Service predicted.

The batch of cold Canadian air means temperatures will run about 10 degrees below normal, meteorologist Bob Hamilton said -- "normal" being daytime highs of about 32 degrees and nighttime lows of about 20.

After the winds picked up Saturday evening, several locations reported gusts of 40 to 45 mph. This time of year, that happens, Hamilton said.

West winds will be blowing 15 to 25 mph today.

The long-term forecast indicates warmer temperatures as the new year approaches, with highs near 40 predicted for Thursday.

And on those forecasts science and farmers concur.

The Old Farmer's Almanac had predicted heavy snow would be limited to the region's snow belts this month. And it agrees that milder temperatures will usher out 1999.

The Almanac's overall winter forecast for the upstate New York region, which includes roughly the top half of Pennsylvania but excludes New York City, Long Island, the Catskills and Lower Hudson Valley, is for near-normal temperatures, with near and slightly above normal snowfall in the snow belts. Elsewhere, snowfall is expected to be well below normal.

Next month, the Almanac predicts, is going to be very cold -- especially mid- and late-January.

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