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Arctic air drops in – and it plans to stay awhile

Get ready to bundle up for the next few days.

After a lake-effect burst that left 6 inches of snow or more in many places on Sunday, Buffalo and Western New York are in for a frigid week.

An arctic front dropped temperatures from near freezing Sunday afternoon into the teens overnight. And that’s where they’re going to stay all day Monday and Tuesday.

Making it seem even colder will be the wind, gusting to 35 mph, causing whiteouts with blowing and drifting snow. Wind chills are expected to range from the single digits to five below zero. Monday night will be a Code Blue night, when homeless people are advised to seek shelter.

The National Weather Service Office at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga reported an official snowfall of 5.7 inches Sunday evening. Other locations in and around Buffalo reported 5 to 6 inches.

The lake-effect snow shifted to the traditional Snow Belt areas in southern Erie County and northern Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties Sunday evening. A lake-effect snow warning was posted for those areas through 7 a.m. Tuesday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Reynolds said Sunday evening that the lake-effect squalls are expected to intensify.

“It will really pick up Monday and into Tuesday,” he said. A foot or two is predicted in the hardest-hit areas.

It’s good news for winter sports enthusiasts. The falling snow Sunday afternoon encouraged skaters to come out and crowd the ice at Canalside in downtown Buffalo.

The new snow will augment a 12- to 36-inch base at Holiday Valley ski resort in Ellicottville. At Kissing Bridge in Colden, which reported a 50-inch base, the website declared, “Let it snow! Let it snow!”

Motorists, meanwhile, appeared to have sharpened their winter driving skills.

It was slow going on snowy pavement during the afternoon, but only one major mishap was reported – an accident about 3:30 p.m. on the Thruway near Exit 54, the exit to Route 400, which closed the left lanes and backed traffic up around Route 400. By Sunday evening, except where snow was still falling, major highways were clear and wet.

“We’re accustomed to this,” Reynolds said. “This is what happens here in January.

“The rest of this week, we’re going to struggle to get up to 30” degrees, he added. “Next Sunday we might get back up to freezing.”

Typical January weather – highs in the mid to upper 20s and overnight lows in the mid teens – is forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Will this cause Lake Erie to freeze over, and shut down the lake effect snowfall?

Reynolds doesn’t think so.

“Lake Erie is still in the low to mid 30s,” he said. “This could put some ice on it, but not enough.”