A major winter storm will begin to affect the Buffalo Niagara region later today, according to National Weather Service forecasters.
The storm will last through Tuesday and some of Wednesday as well, causing problems for motorists in the Buffalo Niagara region as well as thousands of college basketball fans from places such as Notre Dame, Princeton and West Virginia who are about to descend on the city.
By then, up to a foot of new snow is expected across most parts of Western New York with some areas forecast to receive as much as 18 inches, the National Weather Service reported.
Despite the warmth and open waters of lakes Erie and Ontario, this will not be a lake-effect snowstorm that only affects certain areas of the region. It's a synoptic storm being generated by a massive upper-level trough of cold Canadian air and a coastal Nor'easter that's forecast to impact areas from southern Minnesota to Chesapeake Bay and up into Maine.
That means there won't be concentrated bombardments of 2 or 3 inches of snowfall per hour; rather, we'll see gradual accumulations over the course of two or three days.
A winter storm warning is posted not only for all of Western New York, but the whole of New York State.
Blizzard warnings are posted from the New Jersey coast through eastern Connecticut, including New York City.
All of the locations that are home to the seven college basketball squads already marked to travel to Buffalo for the start of the NCAA March Madness Tournament on Thursday are under either winter storm warnings or advisories because of the massive storm system, dubbed "Stella" by the Weather Channel.
Fans from Notre Dame, Princeton, West Virginia, Bucknell, Villanova, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech will be descending on the city this week.
Others from either Mount St. Mary's or New Orleans will also travel to Buffalo, pending a play-in game to be held in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday.
All could be in for tricky travel.
Fans coming in from the west like those from Wisconsin and Notre Dame – or from Tuesday's play-in game between Mount St. Mary's and New Orleans in Dayton, Ohio – will likely have the easiest travel of the bunch.
Travelers coming up from the south, like those from Virginia Tech's home in Blacksburg, Va., or West Virginia Mountaineer fans from Morgantown, W.Va., are under winter weather advisories until 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday respectively, the weather service reports.
Stormy conditions are expected on the Interstate 79 corridor through early Wednesday morning, however, especially between Butler and Erie, Pa., according to forecasts.
Farther east though could be a different story.
That's why the Villanova University basketball team was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo today, in advance of the storm, according to reports.
"Near blizzard conditions are likely for a few hours in eastern Pennsylvania and portions of northern New Jersey where snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour are expected," the weather service said.
If not today, Wednesday looks to be the best day to get out of town for fans there and at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., the closest school geographically to Buffalo.
With a winter storm warning extending in Lewisburg until 10 p.m. Tuesday and then into Wednesday morning in upstate New York, the 3-hour, 45-minute trip could be a bit longer.
Coincidentally, the storm falls on the 24th anniversary of the great Blizzard of 1993 that paralyzed many of the same areas.
And, in a somewhat unusual circumstance, the storm will generate some lake-enhanced snow off Lake Ontario from a northeasterly direction. That will result in more total snowfall, primarily across Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming and Chautauqua counties, the weather service reported.
Visibility is expected to be cut to just a half-mile at times during the storm.
Forecasters warn that "heavy snow and blowing snow could produce very difficult driving conditions with very poor visibility and deep snow cover on roads."
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