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What to expect on the road, tonight and Friday morning

The first wet, sticky flakes of snow from the incoming Nor'easter spread over Western New York from south to north early this evening -- and things will get progressively snowier as the night wears on.

According to the National Weather Service at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the heaviest snow is forecast after 10 p.m., with about 1 to 2 inches of snow per hour expected to fall.

Drivers on routes along the Lake Erie shore, including the Thruway from Hamburg to the Pennsylvania state line, are expected to bear the worst brunt of the storm because of strong north winds gusting up to 45 mph off the lake.

Conditions worsened quickly by mid-evening. Emergency radio frequencies crackled with reports of trucks and other vehicles off the road.

In northern Chautauqua County, Fredonia Police Chief Bradley C. Meyers issued an advisory against unnecessary travel in the village just before 10 p.m. because heavy snow, high winds and downed trees and power lines.

Toward the morning commute, by about 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., "the snow should start to lighten up a bit," said David Church, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

By then, however, 10 inches of snow or more will have blanketed the region, making the morning drive a slow slog into work.

"The bulk of the heavy snow is going to fall overnight tonight. That's what's really going to be the hindrance in the morning, getting the snow off the car, getting the cars out of the driveways and the road crews trying to get caught up getting the roads cleared off," Church said.

Commuters will likely be sharing the roads with plow crews who will not have had time to catch up with the deluge from just a few hours earlier, so driving is likely to be messy.

"Expect it to be slow-going out there," Church said.

What to expect the next 36 hours: 8 to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow

Visibility should not be as much of a problem for the midmorning commuters.

"The people that are hitting that commute early, say 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning, visibility might be an issue, but if you're hitting the road towards the end of the commute time at 10 o'clock, it's probably not going to be as much of an issue," Church said.

The rate and amount of snowfall is expected to drop between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., with only another inch of snow expected to accumulate during that time period, he added.

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