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Record-breaking snowfall Tuesday is largest of winter season

The snow is here and it's going to keep coming overnight and Wednesday. Here's what you should know:

  • Tractor-trailers continue to be banned from the I-90, the I-190, the Southern Tier Expressway (I-86 and Route 17) and several other state highways, but not the Youngmann Expressway (I-290).
  • The Genesee County Sheriff's Office has issued a travelers' advisory, telling motorists to avoid unnecessary travel for the next 24 hours.
  • All schools in Genesee County will be closed again Wednesday. Closings also have been been announced for Buffalo schools and dozens of other districts throughout Western New York.
  • The snowfall total has broken the daily record for March 14 and is still climbing at the rate of about an inch an hour.
  • Many flights in and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport have been canceled. No cancellations have been announced yet for Wednesday.
  • Two units of the National Guard – one from Rochester and one from Buffalo – have arrived in the Buffalo area to help deal with the snow.

[See full list of Wednesday's school closures]

Snowfall, by the numbers

The National Weather Service reported 12.7 inches of snow since midnight on Tuesday as of 10 p.m.

That's a new record for the date. The previous record was 6.5 inches set in 1998.

Official storm total at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, including Monday' night's snow, was 14.2 inches.

As of 10 p.m., it's the largest daily snowfall at the Buffalo airport for the 2016-17 winter season, besting the 9.6 inches on Dec. 14.

And, it's the eighth largest snowfall recorded on any one day in March in Buffalo's history.

The most ever on a March day came on St. Patrick's Day 1936, when 18 inches fell. That was before official measurements began at the Buffalo airport. There, the one-day snowfall record for March was 15.1 inches on March 11, 1992.

[Gallery: Snowstorm hits Northeast]

The roughly foot of snow on the ground is also the most since December at the Buffalo airport. There was 13 inches on the ground on Dec. 17, data shows.

It also brought the monthly snow total over 20 inches, which is more snow than the city received in either January (11 inches) or February (5 inches) combined, and nearly eight inches more than an average Buffalo March, which is an even foot.


National Guard arrives

Two military police companies of the New York Army National Guard, the 222nd Military Police Company out of Rochester and the 105th Military Police Company out of Buffalo, are in place around the Buffalo area.

One of the Army National Guard units' top priorities will be preventing emergencies on the Thruway, where in past storms sometimes people have gotten stranded, said Sgt. Stevin Karlsen of the 222nd Military Police company.

The unit, which is working with the 105th Military Police Company out of Buffalo, is staging in various areas near the Thruway, in case officials decide to limit or cut off traffic, Karlsen said. The Rochester unit, which sent 17 members to the Buffalo area, is keeping its eye on the storm.

"It only takes a couple hours for something to go south quick," he said.

The Rochester unit has been deployed to the Buffalo area for storms in recent years. On those deployments, the unit helped clear snow for traffic around medical centers and similar operations. It also helped first responders traverse rough road conditions to get to emergency calls.

The unit brought humvees and LMTVs, or light medium tactical vehicles, which are transport vehicles, to the area. Karlsen advised residents to use caution when around the National Guard vehicles.

As for how long the Guard members might be here, "it all depends on Mother Nature at this point," he said.

The governor's office announced Monday night that about 2,000 National Guard members would either be deployed or put on standby across the state. Western New York was to see 255 members and 69 vehicles deployed here, the governor's office said.


Lauren Dujanovich, who works at the Grange Community Kitchen in Hamburg, thought she was done with snow this season. (Barbara O'Brien/Buffalo News)

City of Buffalo

It's business as usual for Steven J. Stepniak, Buffalo's public works commissioner, and his crews.

The slow, steady snowfall has kept crews busy around the clock since Monday evening, but it's nothing they can't handle.

"At this point right now, we have no major issues," Stepniak said. "We have plows all over the city."

There are about 30 crews working 12-hour shifts to clean up snow from city streets.

They'll keep doing it until the snow stops falling, which is expected in about 12 to 18 more hours.

Was there any extra effort required to re-equip snow plows following the city's warmest February on record?

No way, Stepniak said.

"We always keep them on as long as possible," Stepniak said. "This isn't the first time this has happened in March."

Far from it, weather service data shows.

Since 2000, there have been eight days in March when it snowed five inches or more in March.

Most recently, it happened March 12, 2014, during the second of two blizzards that season. There was 13.8 inches of snow that day.


Traffic hazards

This morning, the state enacted a travel ban for tractor-trailers on the I-90, I-190, I-81, I-84, I-86/Route 17 and I-88. A complete travel ban was enacted this afternoon on I-84.

The weather visible out windows in Buffalo might not seem like it warrants a travel ban for tractor-trailers, but the decision was likely made because of conditions elsewhere, said Brian Kimmins, owner and president of Buffalo Transport, which has a fleet of more than 20 trucks, including tractor-trailers.

Two of his drivers gave wildly different reports of road conditions this morning, Kimmins said. A driver in Batavia said the weather was "nothing to write home about," while a driver in McKean, Pa., was dealing with 100-foot visibility on the road.

Kimmins recalled storms in recent years that have left some vehicles stranded for long stretches on the Thruway and other highways. There was an uproar from critics who thought officials waited too long to close the roads. He said he imagines state officials don't want to see a repeat of that.

Kimmins' only question was why the ban applied only to tractor-trailers and not to other vehicles.

"We never like it when the roads are closed because it inhibits our ability to serve our customers, but in the end it's all about safety," he said.

The state had deployed an array of snow-clearing and rescue equipment to Long Island and New York City in anticipation that those regions would be hardest hit. The storm, however, today has shifted west and northward, forcing the state to now redeploy 5,000 pieces of snow moving equipment and 2,000 National Guard troops to upstate regions.

“Mother Nature is an unpredictable lady,’’ Cuomo said at a Manhattan news conference today. He said the Southern Tier near Binghamton and Central New York will be hit hardest, with up to 30 inches of snow forecast. The mid-Hudson Valley and Albany area will also be slammed, Cuomo said, with blizzard conditions now forecast; the area has not had a blizzard since 2007. The storm forced a rare postponement of the day’s legislative sessions by the Senate and Assembly, delaying a Senate vote on a state budget plan and a vote in the Assembly chamber on new members to the Board of Regents.

Nearly every local school district, including Buffalo Public Schools, and colleges and universities such as the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State by late Monday had canceled all classes and activities today.

Latest snowfall total projections from National Weather Service through 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Flights in and out of the airport Tuesday were canceled on all major airlines, including JetBlue, United, Southwest, Delta and American, NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said. The only exceptions were Delta flights to and from its hub in Atlanta, and American flights to and from its hub in Charlotte. The closures were due to worsening conditions elsewhere.

A winter storm warning is in place for all of Western New York through 8 p.m. Wednesday.

What to expect in the next 36 hours: Schools, flights canceled

Schools closed, National Guard called - for mere inches of snow?

Poloncarz on snowstorm: 'Let's show some backbone'

News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.

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