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Unfavorable storm track increases potential for wild Friday weather

Torrential rain. Lightning. Hail. Tornadoes.

They're all a possibility later today in Western New York, according to forecasters at the National Weather Service.

And chances that Buffalo Niagara will, like Wednesday, slide through unscathed by extreme weather are narrowing as the cold front approaches the region, forecasters said late Friday morning.

The weather service, in its hazardous weather outlook for all of Western New York, forecasters say thunderstorms are expected late this afternoon and tonight and that some "may become severe with damaging winds and large hail." Heavy rain and flooding is also possible.


What's not working in the region's favor today is the forecast wind direction.

Southwesterly winds, like those that occurred Wednesday, cross over the cooler Lake Erie into the Buffalo metro area. They're the worst for lake-effect snowstorms in the fall when the lake is warmer, but the most advantageous to ward off extreme weather on days like today.

"The lake waters are a lot cooler," said Aaron Reynolds, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo. "It stabilizes the lower level of the atmosphere and keeps the thunderstorm development down."

RELATED: Will another lake-effect 'no storm' blow through Buffalo Friday?

Forecasts show that southwesterly winds about 3 p.m. today will shift to become more from the west, and then from the northwest by 8 p.m. tonight. The strongest storms and heaviest precipitation are expected in the late afternoon and evening hours.

That could intercept the possibility of a repeat performance of Wednesday's weather when Lake Erie's waters insulated Buffalo Niagara from the severe weather that struck most of the upper Midwest and Northeast late Wednesday and even included a small tornado that dropped into the outskirts of metro Rochester.

"Lake Erie had a lot to do with it," Reynolds said. "It depends on how strong the southwesterly flow is."

Hot and humid conditions are expected over land today with temperatures in the mid 80s. But Lake Erie's temperature is listed at 59 degrees.

The degree to which cooler lake waters have on tamping down severe weather today are still to be determined. The direction of the approaching cold front will play a large role in that.

At mid-day, it appeared the best bet is the biggest problems with rain could fall farther east.

The weather service posted flash flood watches today from the Finger Lakes through Watertown.



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