In ski country expect up to 3 feet of snow by late Friday if some of the most persistent snow bands show up.
But across northern Erie and Niagara counties, forecasts as of Tuesday show a chance for only 2 to 3 inches of snow between Wednesday and Saturday.
Lake-effect snow is expected in Western New York starting Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
But like most lake-effect events, some will count on commercial snowplowing to get out of the driveway while others not far away will be OK to take a walk wearing sneakers.
More than 14 inches of snow could fall in Springville with totals near 2 feet in Mayville and Ellicottville, according to the forecast.
Ski slope operators are gearing up.
"We did make a little snow overnight, and we will be able to make more snow starting around Wednesday night," said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville. "We're preparing to reopen Saturday for sure, but if we get a lot of natural snow, we may open a few lifts on Friday."
A west-southwest flow will help the first lake-effect snow bands start to set up in the immediate Southtowns late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, according to the weather service forecast discussion. A couple inches are expected.
"After that, things will get much more interesting through the remainder of this period," forecasters stated.
Cold Canadian air associated with a trough will create "strong instability over the lakes."
"Coupled with the arrival of much deeper moisture, this will set the stage for a much stronger lake response," the discussion stated, "one that will likely feature intense snowfall rates at times."
With a tweak in the wind direction, the lake-effect snow starting in the Southtowns will "slowly drift south" into the Ski Country during the day Thursday.
There, it will intensify, and last through Friday, forecasters said.
In the areas outside of the main lake-effect snow bands, scattered snow showers are expected Thursday and Friday, but the temperatures "will drop off to typical mid-winter levels" by Friday when the daytime high will only reach about 30 degrees. Overnight, the mercury could drop near 20 degrees, forecasts show. Wind chills will be in the teens.
The National Weather Service's lake-effect snow warning runs from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday and includes Southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. Gusty west winds, combined with heavy snow, is forecast to severely reduce visibility, the weather service stated.
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