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Buffalo area dodged ice bullet; now comes rain, snow

Consider the first weather bullet of the week dodged.

The ice storm came late Saturday and into Sunday and passed without significant damage.

Now there will be heavy rain on Monday. Then, another frigid day with some snow possible overnight and Tuesday.

The National Weather Service posted a flood watch for all eight counties in Western New York through Tuesday evening. Up to 1.5 inches of rain is forecast by late Monday afternoon, the Weather Service said.

That rain combined with melting ice – which measured half an inch in some spots east of metro Buffalo – are forecast to run off into area creeks and streams. Minor flooding is possible, forecasters said.

When the roughly 18-hour ice storm subsided by midday Sunday and a brief few hours of dreary gray calm prevailed, meteorologists gave the thumbs-up to how their tricky forecasts played out.

"We got close to what we were thinking," said Aaron Reynolds, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga.

Some of the thickest reports of ice came from east of Buffalo.

Alden saw 0.5 inches of ice, according to social media report recorded by the Weather Service. A trained spotter in Corfu reported 0.38 inches of ice and a Weather Service employee logged 0.31 inches of ice in Elma. Other ice accretion totals included: Hamburg, 0.25 inches; Buffalo Niagara International Airport, 0.2 inches; and Williamsville, 0.12 inches.

"It was messy and disruptive," retired Weather Service meteorologist Steve McLaughlin posted on his Facebook page. "But, it could have been a lot worse."

At the peak of the outages, only a few thousand electric customers were without power early Sunday. Crews from NYSEG and National Grid had restored power to most of those customers by Sunday afternoon.

McLaughlin said there was less precipitation than most weather models initially forecast and a slightly cooler and drier atmosphere helped a lot of the precipitation fall as sleet instead of freezing rain, helping to alleviate the severity of the storm.

The Weather Service logged 0.7 inches of sleet, which counts as snowfall in the record books. That made Sunday the eighth day in April with measurable snowfall – the most for the first half of April since 1961.

There was some residual ice from the storm coating sidewalks, parking lots and some side streets across the region as temperatures hovered in the low 30s and winds picked up Sunday afternoon.

"It’s so cold," said Merel Nas, a visitor from the Netherlands who waited for a bus Sunday afternoon at Canalside.

Nas was in the Buffalo Niagara region for a couple of days as part of her first visit to the United States.

She caught Niagara Falls on Saturday before the storm hit and tried checking out Canalside Sunday but found it deserted and covered in ice.

"If this happened in Holland, people would freak out," Nas said.

Buffalo city officials reported no storm-related injuries. The city’s Forestry Department responded to a pair of calls for downed trees Saturday afternoon. The Department of Public Works said two streetlights fell — one at Broadway and Fillmore Avenue and the other at William and Krettner streets.

And most of the ice eventually melted off as temperatures finally climbed above freezing later Sunday.

The massive weekend storm system brought watches and warnings across most of the eastern half of the nation. As the Buffalo Niagara region grappled with sleet, freezing rain and ice, blizzard conditions were reported in midwestern states, a tornado in the Missouri Valley and torrential rains in the Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

Heavy rain associated with the track of the storm system was expected to start impacting Western New York overnight Sunday and forecasters called for a 100 percent chance for precipitation on Monday. Three-quarters of an inch of rain was possible by daybreak Monday with another half-inch possible during the day and another one-tenth of an inch possible Monday night, forecasts showed.

After a cold front attached to the storm system swings through the region overnight Monday, even colder air will move in on Tuesday, turning the rain into snow, with accumulations of snow up to a half inch overnight. The mercury isn’t forecast to make it out of the mid-30s.

There’s an 80 percent chance of snow showers on Tuesday, accumulating up to about an inch during the day, and it’ll be breezy, the Weather Service said. Wind chills could be in the low 20s, forecasts show.

The Weather Service expects this streak of below-average temperatures to continue all week with highs mostly in the mid-40s.

By Friday, April 2018 could be off to the coldest start of any April since 1975, forecasts and records show.

The average high temperature in Buffalo for this week ranges from 55 to 57 degrees.

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