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Heavy snow possible in the hills

Will they be calling today's weather the Election Day Surprise?

Don't be surprised if they do.

Until the incoming storm hits the Buffalo metro area this afternoon, nobody's sure whether it will rain or snow, not even one of our resident experts, meteorologist Steve McLaughlin at the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga.

"It's an extremely complicated forecast, like a lot of lake-effects are," McLaughlin said Monday evening, not long after a lake-effect snow watch was posted for southern Erie County and Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and Allegany counties.

"The second thing we have this time is the rain-snow situation," he explained. "The question is -- what kind of precipitation type is it going to be?"

Forecasters are betting on rain, at least for elevations below 1,000 feet. In the hills south of Buffalo, however, it's likely to be snow -- wet, heavy snow.

Before it's over, some places may get 10 inches.

"In Buffalo in the morning, we'll probably have sunshine," McLaughlin said, "and you'll look south and see that big black band of clouds."

That big band of clouds will set up over Chautauqua County around dawn, McLaughlin said, then begin moving northward. How far north is hard to say. It may stop in the Southtowns sometime during the afternoon. It may reach the city.

"We're a little afraid once those bands get rolling that it could change to snow all the way down to the surface of the lake," McLaughlin said. "We'll probably have really heavy rain mixed with wet snowflakes, but there's a small chance that this could be snow. We're all a little bit worried about that because there are still lots of leaves on the trees. The leaves are the latest we've ever seen."

An incoming cold front will push the lake effect bands south again later today, McLaughlin said. Wednesday's forecast calls for snow showers mixed with rain in the morning, then temperatures will begin moderating. By the weekend, highs will be in the upper 40s.
e-mail: danderson@buffnews.com1

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