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TODAY'S FORECAST: BRRRRRRR-ING ON THE COLD

An Alberta Clipper stormed through Buffalo late Sunday and Monday. The Siberian Express will be in town tonight.

While they're common visitors to the area in middle January, neither is the Sabres' latest opponent.

Rather, they're separate and distinct winter weather patterns with a common theme -- snow.

The Clipper brought moderate temperatures but dumped 10 inches of snow across the area, and the wintry conditions overnight led to power outages that affected close to 25,000 local customers and forced some schools to close. The Clipper will give way later today to the Express, which will bring back the frigid cold of last week, according to meteorologists.

"The air flow comes from Asia, over the North Pole, through eastern Canada and on top of us," said Bill Hibbert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga. "It smells of vodka and polar bears."

Hibbert said winds will pick up and temperatures will plunge back toward lows around zero over the next couple of days with daytime highs only at about 10 degrees or less.

"If you liked last week, you'll love this week," he said.

The wind and icy conditions knocked down power lines, leading to the loss of power for about 15,000 New York State Electric & Gas customers, starting at about 2:30 a.m., in East Aurora, Holland, Java, Alden and Clarence. Significant transmission-level problems led to power outages for between 8,000 and 10,000 Niagara Mohawk customers, many of them in Niagara County.

"The temperature was at the witching point where it's just right for ice buildup on the lines," said Stephen F. Brady, corporate communications manager for Niagara Mohawk.

Customers still without power at midmorning were expected to have their service restored by late morning or early afternoon, the utilities said.

Some lake-effect snow also could be generated with the system and will fall in areas downwind.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Joseph Giambra said the city plow crews were prepared for the late weekend weather, but it seems it may have caught some residents by surprise.

Giambra said plow crews had many of the main and secondary thoroughfares cleared by Monday morning but were slowed down on the side streets by residents who didn't comply with parking rules.

Nevertheless, Giambra said, given that it was only the city's second major snow event this season, things don't look as bad as they usually do at this time of year.

"We're lucky in that it's mid-January and the equipment has held up pretty well. Usually by this time, the equipment has taken a beating," Giambra said.

Giambra said the city has used only about 15 percent of its seasonal salt supply, thanks to the warmer weather in November and December.

Area ambulance crews also experienced a high volume of calls because of the snow.

"Since late Sunday night, the roads around Western New York have been slick, and that has been creating quite a few fender benders that we've had to respond to," said Michael P. Hughes of Rural/Metro Medical Services.

News Staff Reporter Gene Warner contributed to this report.
e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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