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It's here! The big storm has arrived and it's settling in for the night

Brace yourself. The big storm is here -- and it's going to dump snow on Western New York all night.

What began in the Southern Tier counties and the Southtowns as mixed rain and snow at mid-afternoon had turned to wet snow by mid-evening and spread across the entire metro Buffalo-Niagara Falls area.

Highways turned treacherous and blustery winds caused numerous power outages.

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement at mid-evening for the entire region warning of the increasing risk of downed trees and power lines overnight.

As the night progressed, the number of outages mounted. The National Grid website at midnight reported more than 2,600 customers without power in Erie County, primarily in the Angola-Evans-Derby area. More than 2,500 had lost electricity in Chautauqua County and more than 6,300 were affected in Cattaraugus County, 1,000 more than an hour earlier.

NYSEG's website reported more than 3,100 without power in Erie County, a third of them in Orchard Park. In the Town of Boston, more than 500 also were affected. Sections of Route 39 and Route 62 in the Town of Collins were closed in both directions late Thursday for utility repair.

The Nor'easter has been behaving exactly as predicted.

"Everything's on track," said National Weather Service meteorologist David Church. "Probably by morning, we'll be looking at about 10 to 11 inches on the ground of heavy, heavy snow."

In higher elevations in the Boston Hills and the Chautauqua Ridge, Church said, snow had started earlier Thursday afternoon and storm totals might reach 18 inches.

At midnight, NITTEC traffic cameras showed that the Thruway and other expressways throughout the area were completely snow-covered. The going was particularly slow between Clarence and Batavia, between Hamburg and Silver Creek and between Westfield and the Pennsylvania state line.

In northern Chautauqua County, Fredonia Police Chief Bradley C. Meyers issued a statement just before 10 p.m. declaring: "Due to heavy snow and high winds along with downed power lines and tree limbs, the Fredonia Police Department is implementing a travel advisory until further notice. Drivers should avoid all unnecessary travel within the Village of Fredonia."

The weather station at the Dunkirk airport at midnight reported a temperature of 31 degrees with thunderstorm snow, freezing fog and winds gusting to 33 mph.

It was much the same at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, with heavy snow and freezing fog limiting visibility to an eighth of a mile. Winds were gusting to 36 mph and the temperature also was 31 degrees.

Almost all incoming late evening flights at the Buffalo airport had been canceled, according to the NFTA website.

Just before 6 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a special weather statement for Chautauqua and Southern Erie counties warning of near blizzard conditions tonight along the Lake Erie shoreline, including the Thruway.

"That's because of the north winds off the lake," Church said. "There's nothing stopping the wind right there."

The worst is expected between 10 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Friday.

The statement noted: “Snowfall rates are expected to peak between 1 and 2 inches per hour, along with northerly winds gusting to 45 mph. This will likely create very dangerous and near impossible travel conditions, with near zero visibility and blowing and drifting snow.”

A gale warning was posted for the Lake Erie shore.

Overnight accumulation of heavy, wet snow, driven by blustery winds, is expected to reach up to 12 inches in northern Erie, Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties and up to 18 inches elsewhere in Western New York.

Travel on Friday morning throughout the region is expected to be difficult, but conditions are forecast to improve throughout the day as the snow tapers off after 10 a.m. It will still be breezy and temperatures should hold steady in the low 30s.

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