Freezing drizzle Saturday made driving treacherous throughout the Buffalo area and triggered a fatal crash in Niagara County.
The result was icy, slick roads that fueled reports of vehicles skidding off the Aurora Expressway near Transit Road, north of East Aurora, as well as a crash that closed down the left lane of the westbound Thruway between the Dunkirk-Fredonia and Westfield-Mayville exits.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office reported a man died in a two-vehicle crash shortly before 5 p.m. on Akron Road in the Town of Royalton.
Deputies said a southbound vehicle slid into a northbound vehicle driven by a man who was declared dead at the scene. The victim’s identity was withheld pending notification of family.
The driver of the other vehicle was first taken to Eastern Niagara Hospital, Lockport, then transferred to Erie County Medical Center. His identity and condition were unavailable.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office and several other local police agencies confirmed a spate of minor accidents caused by the ice-slicked roadways.
Buffalo police reported an 11-car, chain-reaction accident at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the eastbound Kensington Expressway at the Suffolk Street ramp. Police said two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.
Meanwhile, a Buffalo Fire Department ladder truck returning from a Broadway fire hit a patch of black ice and crashed into a utility pole at Krupp Avenue and Ashley Street, officials said. No one was injured.
The freezing drizzle, which commenced early Saturday afternoon, started to change over to sleet and snow later in the day, according to Steven Welch, National Weather Service meteorologist.
“There wasn’t enough cold air for the freezing drizzle to form into snow and sleet at first, but there’s some colder air moving aloft. It’s helping to change the precipitation over to snow and sleet,” Welch said.
Though temperatures were starting to cool a degree or two, Welch said it wasn’t necessarily the colder air that was the cause of the freezing drizzle.
“It’s just the way the atmosphere is set up right now,” he said.
The daily high temperatures leading up to Saturday have been in the upper 20s which, according to Welch, is actually a couple of degrees below normal for this time of year. However, he said, there still wasn’t enough cold air aloft for any significant snow accumulation.
Conditions started to change early Saturday afternoon as the colder air aloft mingled with above-freezing temperatures.
Temperatures are expected to become colder over the next few days, Welch said.
“The next couple of days we’re going to be in the upper teens to the low 20s for the highs Sunday (and) Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it could get a little cooler than that,” Welch said.
Thursday appears to be shaping up as one of the warmer days of the week, with highs still below freezing, in the upper 20s.
Welch said the extended forecast looks to be trending colder for the following week, as well.