The quickly falling snow and poor visibility made travel in many places difficult.

But early warnings of the approaching storm -- and precautionary steps by businesses, schools and government entities -- helped keep the near-blizzard conditions from becoming a crisis.

"Look, you can hardly see the Delaware North building from the end of the block," said Catie Stephenson, as a coat of snow blew briskly on Chippewa Street near Franklin Street. "It looks like a space ship because of the snow."

"This is crazy," she said.

The heavy snowfall brought with it traffic backups and inconveniences -- across Western New York.

The Skyway was closed. Route 5 was closed from Ridge Road to the 190. The Kensington and Route 219 were like parking lots as driving was dicey on many roads.

Gridlock reigned in South Buffalo. There were slippery road conditions in Clarence Center. Snow piled up in Amherst.

All over, people took to Twitter feeds, and other social media, to point out the treacherous weather conditions around them.

A snowstorm scrapbook of images and tweets from Buffalo News staff during the day included a man loading wood into his store in the blinding snow on Walden Avenue. Another contrasted the lack of snow in Lewiston with heavy snowfall in North Buffalo. In Springville, one photo showed cars moving cautiously through driving snow.

In Buffalo, Scott Fuller was shoveling snow outside the Calumet Building at 2 p.m., but he was already more concerned about potential bad weather conditions on Thursday.

"I'm supposed to fly out to Baltimore tomorrow, to go to D.C. for the weekend for my birthday," Fuller said.

Visibility at the Buffalo airport got as low as less than one-eighth of a mile.

Some areas were said to experience thunder and lightning, with one report near Cheektowaga confirmed by the National Weather Service.

Getting home early helped, for those who could.

Buffalo City Hall closed at 1:45 p.m. Lackawanna City Hall followed suit 15 minutes later. All downtown Buffalo court buildings -- state, county and local, also shut down at 2 p.m. Non-essential Erie County employees were allowed to leave work early.

At the Buffalo Public Schools, leaders cancelled all after-school activities. Erie Community College cancelled evening classes.

There were fender-benders and other accidents and temporary road closures, including the northbound Route 219 beyond Route 179 after an accident at 2:37 p.m.; the southbound Niagara Thruway beyond Elm Street due to a 2:10 p.m. accident; and Route 5 from Ridge Road to the 190 following a 2:35 p.m. accident.

There were also lots of postponements.

One of them included a public hearing on the New York State Department of Transportation's plans for the Scajaquada Expressway.

The heaviest part of the lake-effect snow band slamming downtown Buffalo and northern Erie County came with southwest winds that gusted near 40 mph. That pushed wind chills down into the single digits.

Both at the airport and in Lackawanna, a reported 5 inches of snow had fallen by 6 p.m. Akron saw 5.5 inches.

The lake-effect pounding began arriving downtown around 1 p.m., and put down a couple inches of snow before moving northward. It was spurred by an early-season blast of unusually cold Arctic air. The southward trek of the polar vortex into northern Ontario and Quebec is generating a large cyclonic flow of frigid air over the Great Lakes.

That causes heavy lake-effect snow -- from Wisconsin to the north country in New York State.

“This will be a relatively short-lived but potentially high-impact event centered around evening commute,” forecasters from the National Weather Service stated in its lake-effect snow warning.

The lake-effect snow warning continues in northern Erie County, including Buffalo, and Genesee County until 1 a.m. Thursday. The warning is posted until 7 p.m. Thursday in southern Erie County.

In Niagara County, there's a lake-effect snow advisory in place until 7 p.m. Up to five inches of snow is possible in the most persistent squalls.

Farther south, in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, the warning for lake-effect snow doesn't expire until Friday morning. Up to 18 inches of new snow is possible in areas that received close to two feet of snow last week.

By 7 a.m. Friday, metro Buffalo could see up to a foot of new snow, according to weather service projections. So far in the 2016-17 winter season, just 6.5 inches has fallen at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. That's nearly a foot below average for this date in the year.

The weather was a long ways off from where it stood one year ago on the same date, when the temperature in Buffalo reached 71 degrees. That set the all-time record in Buffalo for the latest day in the calendar year when a 70-degree day was recorded.

The snow is expected to taper off for a while, but it's expected to be bitterly cold Thursday morning. Temperatures will likely be in the teens, with wind chills of minus 5 to minus 10 in the Buffalo metro area.

Another round of snow -- a lake-enhanced snow as opposed to a full lake-effect band -- is expected to hit the Buffalo area in the late evening, probably after the evening rush hour commute. It is expected to hit at about 7 p.m., and could bring three to six inches of additional snow. A winter weather advisory has been issued for this weather event starting at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Friday is expected to be cold, but also have partly sunny conditions. There could be scattered snow showers. Daytime highs will be near 20 degrees, with overnight lows dropping into the teens.

The weekend is not expected to be as frigid, but precipitation-laden. Snow and rain is forecast on Saturday, and snow again on Sunday. Saturday's high is predicted to make it into the low 40s, while Sunday will struggle to reach the freezing mark.

News staff Harold McNeil, Barbara O'Brien, Tiffany Lankes, James McCoy, Tim O'Shei, Mark Mulville and Maki Becker contributed to this report.