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Not your typical January day: Snow follows freezing rain, flooding and fog

By Friday evening, snow was falling at a rate of about one-half inch per hour and the temperature had dropped to 22 degrees -- a major swing in a matter of hours in one day.

Indeed, at 10:45 a.m. Friday, it was 60 degrees.

Andy Vitello of Buffalo set off on his daily 1.6-mile walk from Tim Hortons at Canalside.

By the end of his walk around 11:25 a.m., a thick fog had rolled across the Erie Basin Marina and the temperature fell 18 degrees.

It was 43 degrees – and it kept getting colder.

“I’m a Buffalonian. I’ve seen it before,” Vitello said. “It’s great just to get some air. Otherwise, I have to get to a treadmill.”

By noon, light rain was falling. It turned to freezing rain in places by 2:30 p.m. All areas of the region received freezing rain for hours, leaving many roads, especially elevated surfaces and unmaintained stretches, with a potentially dangerous coating of ice in the evening.

It was snowing in Buffalo and areas to the north at 5 p.m. After 7 p.m., the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for Tonawanda Creek at Batavia, Cattaraugus Creek at Gowanda and the Allegheny River at Salamanca.

Tonawanda Creek is expected to rise above flood stage late Friday night, with possible flooding in Kibbe Park as well as Walnut and Law streets, according to the weather service. In Gowanda, flooding is possible along the right bank a half mile to a mile downstream from Gowanda, mostly in industrial and commercial areas.

Officials cautioned drivers to avoid driving vehicles through flooded roadways because the water may be deeper than it appears.

The National Weather Service also warned that winds, gusting as high as 35 mph, will cause areas of blowing and drifting snow -- meaning dangerous travel.

By Saturday, Buffalo’s temperature will be down to 11 degrees.

“We don’t usually see a 40- to 50-degree drop,” said Jim Mitchell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “This is a very, very powerful cold front.”

As the cold air moves south, it will bring snow south with it, as well.

Snow will be falling throughout the region early Friday evening, said David Zaff, another National Weather Service meteorologist.

With the mixture of snow, sleet and rain, car windshields can ice up easily, potentially endangering motorists. Officials advise people to minimize driving as much as possible.

By late afternoon Saturday, about a half-foot of snow is expected in metro Buffalo with up to a foot or more east of the city.

Thursday’s spring-like temperatures will seem like a distant memory.

Forecasters expect the frigid temperatures to linger -- with highs only in the teens and overnight lows in the single digits on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Sub-zero wind chills are also expected, according to the National Weather Service.

Below average temperatures will continue into next week with daily highs around 20 degrees and overnight lows between 11 and 16 degrees, the weather service said.

The brief January thaw was just long and warm enough to make a big mess of things.

Flooding from swollen streams -- following a record-breaking 61-degree day on Thursday -- was reported along Cazenovia Creek in Buffalo, the Allegany River in Olean and Salamanca, Tonawanda Creek in Attica, Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda and others.

South Buffalo residents dealing with flooded streets, basements

Two Buffalo public schools closed Friday because of flooding concerns – Hillery Park Academy at 73 Pawnee Parkway and Southside Elementary School at 430 Southside Parkway.

Dynamic snow analysis maps by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that snow packs as deep as a foot or more as late as Wednesday melted off and dwindled to nothing by just after midnight Friday.

What’s more, weather service tabulations showed nearly 1 inch of rainfall or more by Friday morning across Western New York, including Wellsville, 1.86 inches; Olean, 1.72 inches; Frewsburg, 1.49 inches; Eden, 1.19 inches; Portageville, 1.10 inches; Warsaw, 1.05 inches; and Amherst, 0.9 inches.

Weather service forecasters warned Friday the rapidly dropping temperatures combined with the standing water from rain and snow melt would lead to an afternoon flash freeze across the region.

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