The true polar vortex won't be making the trip all the way south to the Buffalo Niagara region, but its effects will be felt in the metro Buffalo area starting Wednesday – just in time for the afternoon commute.
"A deep cyclonic flow" will grip the Great Lakes region with a "dangerous cold" and "significant lake snows," National Weather Service forecasters said.
The center core of the polar air will move over northern Ontario and Quebec, but that will bring a west southwest flow of frigid air across lakes Erie and Ontario. Snow will start in the northern Erie County, with Amherst and Clarence expected to get 3 to 4 inches of snow.
The storm will then move into the Southtowns.
— NWS Buffalo (@NWSBUFFALO) December 14, 2016
"There will also be a big impact from the lake-effect snow on the metro Buffalo area as the snow band is expected to form up across the city and northeastern suburbs during the afternoon commute," weather service forecasters stated in their Tuesday afternoon forecast discussion.
The weather service posted a lake-effect snow warning for all of Erie County from 1 p.m. Wednesday through 1 a.m. Thursday.
Three to seven inches of snow is possible in the most persistent snow bands during that time, forecasters said.
Although large snowfall amounts in the Buffalo metro area aren't forecast to be excessive, it's their timing that could make travel treacherous.
"Snowfall rates of two or more inches per hour during the evening commute could have quite an impact," weather service forecasters said.
With winds gusting up to 35 mph, visibility could be cut to nearly zero with "localized blizzard conditions," the weather service reported.
Besides Erie County, Genesee, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are also included in the lake-effect snow warning. Orleans, Wyoming and Monroe counties remain under a lake-effect snow advisory.
Temperatures will also begin to plunge after about 4 p.m. Wednesday from a high in the mid-20s in Buffalo down to about 11 degrees by 7 a.m. Thursday.
With gusty west winds, wind chills are forecast to drop well below zero by 11 p.m. Wednesday and remain there until about 7 p.m. Thursday, forecasts show.
The heaviest snowfall in the Buffalo Niagara region will push southward overnight. Up to a foot of snow is forecast in southern Erie County and 15 inches in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties by Friday morning, according to the weather service.
How's this for some weather irony?
Last year, on Wednesday's date it reached 71 degrees, marking the latest date in Buffalo's recorded weather history that it reached 70 degrees.
Here's what the National Weather Service says to expect over the next 72 hours:
Wednesday: Lake-effect snow warning starts at 1 p.m. There's a 100 percent chance of snow with 1 to 3 inches forecast. Winds pick up and gust over 30 mph. Blowing snow is forecast, especially after 3 p.m. as an arctic front passes through the region.
Wednesday night: Heavy snow is forecast with gusty winds. Air temperatures drop to near 10 degrees with wind chills below zero. Lake-effect snow warning expires at 1 a.m. Thursday.
Thursday: Snow showers are likely with breezy conditions that could not only blow snow but drop wind chills close to zero or below for most of the day. The high temperature isn't expected to make it out of the teens.
Thursday night: Heavy snow possible at times with overnight lows in the single digits and wind chills below zero.
Friday: Partly sunny conditions, but cold. There could be scattered snow showers. Daytime highs will be near 20 degrees.