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Wide-open Lake Ontario waters keep lake-effect machine churning

It's a case of the winter "haves and have-nots."

Live near ice-covered Lake Erie? There's no more lake-effect snow.

For residents on the eastern end of Lake Ontario though, snow is still falling by the foot-load.

Just ask the Oswego County community of Redfield, which received 15 inches more snow since Thursday and passed the 300-inch mark for seasonal snowfall.

An upstate town just hit the 300-inch mark for snow

Lake Ontario's surface area, 7,340 square miles, is just three-quarters the size of its sister to the southwest, Lake Erie, which is 9,910 square miles, so what gives?

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and it's the first to freeze in the winter. (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

Ontario's depth and geographic location in the southern half of the Great Lakes basin helps keeps its water warmer and open on the lake even during the coldest of winters.

At its deepest point in the "Rochester Basin" on Lake Ontario's eastern end, the lake bottom at 802 feet, is about four times deeper than the deepest depth of Lake Erie, 210 feet, near Long Point, Ont.

And, Lake Ontario's average depth of 283 feet, is second in among the Great Lakes to only Lake Superior.

Lake Ontario rarely gets over 20 percent covered in ice, data shows.

Its water temperature off Rochester Friday was 34 degrees. Lake Erie's temperature reached 32 degrees at Buffalo Harbor on Jan. 2 and has stayed there.

A band of heavy lake-effect snow arches over Lake Ontario just before 11 a.m. Thursday. It brought several inches of snow to Oswego. (NASA/NOAA)

Thursday's data from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory also shows Lake Ontario remained the least frozen of all of the Great Lakes.

It was only about 16 percent frozen compared to Lake Erie, 90 percent; Lake Huron, 64 percent; Lake Superior, 56 percent; and Lake Michigan, 39 percent.

It's a tale of two lakes in upstate New York. Lake Erie is nearly entirely covered in ice, while Lake Ontario remains wide open. (GLERL)



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