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First of two lake-effect blasts hits Western New York

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The first in at least a two-punch blast of wintry weather arrived in Western New York on Sunday evening in the form of high winds and blowing snow. If forecasts hold true, some locales are due for heavy lake-effect snow.

Heavy snowfall and fog were reported late Sunday afternoon at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where visibility was a quarter-mile and wind gusts approached 48 mph. Temperatures have dipped down to the freezing point, from a high near 50 degrees earlier Sunday, as a cold front moved in.

A review of the arrival/departure board for the airport shows numerous cancellations and delays for flights Sunday night. The airlines make those decisions, said C. Douglas Hartmayer, a spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the airport.

"Those are decisions that airlines make predicated on forecasts and where they want their inventory to be or not to be with pending storms," said Hartmayer.

The Buffalo airport's runways are open and able to accept arrivals and departures, said Hartmayer, who checked with the airfield about 6:45 p.m.

"We have a great track record," he said. "It's very rare that our runways are not usable. It will depend on what Mother Nature throws our way, but right now we are open and able to accept arrivals and departures."

Latest updates:

  • Power outages are being reported across the Southtowns, including 2,742 NYSEG customers and 1,264 National Grid customers without power.
  • The state Thruway Authority reported it has 193 operators, 75 large snow plows, 40 medium snow plows, 23 front-end loaders and 12 snow blowers in the Buffalo region. The authority also said there are 39,000 tons of salt along the Thruway in WNY and that it has its Buffalo Division Operations Center in Cheektowaga.
  • Steady rainfall Sunday could lead to black ice on overpasses, ramps and bridges as temperatures continue to fall, warned Steven Welch, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
  • Buffalo police announced just before 5 p.m. that city crews have begun pre-salting roads. Motorists were advised to use caution.
  • Erie County has all its crews out salting roads and two crews removing trees blown down in Orchard Park and Boston, County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted.
  • Route 5 in both directions between Big Tree Road and Camp Road were closed due to high winds and flooding, Hamburg police announced via the department's Twitter page.
  • A lakeshore flood warning was issued for Erie and Chautauqua Counties until 10 p.m. Sunday. Elevated water levels could pose a hazard to any remaining docked boats and vessels in area harbors, the NWS said. Waves are expected to build to 12-15 feet.

More than one foot of snow is expected in some areas of Southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties by dusk on Monday, according to forecasts.

The National Weather Service about 3 p.m. Sunday issued a lake-effect snow advisory for northern Erie County, including the City of Buffalo, and Genesee and Allegany Counties.

[What does lake-effect snow look like? See our gallery of memorable images from November 2014's twin lake-effect storms]

Those are the areas where lake-effect snow warnings were posted Sunday afternoon by the National Weather Service.

Here's what to expect over the next few days ...

In Buffalo:

5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday: Precipitation will change over to snow as the mercury drops below the freezing mark, plunging into the 20s by about 8 p.m. Sunday. West winds will remain strong, sustained at more than 30 mph with gusts of 50 mph or more, before starting to dissipate in the wee hours of Monday. Snow forecast: about 2 inches.

3 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday: Snow will continue falling with blustery west winds of more than 20 mph, with gusts above 30 mph. Arctic air continues its invasion into the region dropping temperatures for the day into the low 20s. Snowfall forecast: 0.5 inches.

10 a.m. Monday through Tuesday: A clipper system will bring widespread light snow starting Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service; a band of "heavy lake-enhanced snow" could develop in the afternoon and evening across the Niagara Frontier. Snowfall forecast: 6.6 inches by noon Tuesday.

National Weather Service forecast graphic.

National Weather Service forecast graphic



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