Western New York is forecast to be thrust abruptly back into winter later tonight into Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
A winter storm warning was posted for southern Erie County along with Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties from tonight through 6 p.m. Wednesday. A winter weather advisory also has been posted from 7 p.m. through 6 p.m. Wednesday for northern Erie and Genesee counties.
Although snow is expected in higher elevations most of today, weather service forecasters said temperatures in lower elevations could stay just warm enough to limit significant accumulations to an inch or less during the daylight hours today.
That's expected to change after dusk.
"Late this afternoon and into tonight, the combination of the loss of daytime heating and temperatures in the lower levels cooling a degree or two will allow for a little more widespread snow accumulation," the weather service said.
Forecasters expect the most widespread impact to be tonight into Wednesday. Snowfall amounts could vary quite a bit though.
"The most problematic issue with this event continues to be with the temperatures," the weather service said. "Temperatures will remain within a few degrees of freezing throughout the period with the coldest temperatures across higher terrain."
Lower terrain – including the lake plains, Genesee Valley and the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas – can generally expect 3 to 5 inches of snow during this time, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Kelly.
Forecasters said the greatest snow totals will come in from the Chautauqua Ridge and across other higher terrain spots of the region.
Up to a foot more snow was expected there.
"Also, winds gusting to 35 mph in these areas will result in areas of blowing snow," the weather service said.
Early snow totals were released as of about 8 a.m. today. The weather service reports showed the leaders in Perrysburg, 5.6 inches and Celoron, 5.5 inches. There was also 2.7 inches in East Aurora, 2.5 inches in North Boston and 2.4 inches in Randolph.
Other totals included: Cattaraugus, 2 inches; Little Valley and Silver Creek, 1; Wyoming, 0.6; Rushford, 0.5; Dunkirk, 0.2 and the Niagara Falls International Airport, 0.1.
Overall, the heaviest snowfall is forecast in the higher elevations of the region by Wednesday evening. Forecasters expect that when all's said and done, 14 inches will fall in Springville, 13 inches is expected in Jamestown and 8 inches each in Batavia and Warsaw.
[3:45 PM] Winter Storm Warning in effect for far Western NY. Heavy lake effect snow expected. Accumulations of 10 to 20 inches in the most persistent lake snows. pic.twitter.com/LwmBnL4I0G
— NWS Buffalo (@NWSBUFFALO) November 26, 2018
For most of today, temperatures – especially in the lower elevations – will remain on the edge of rain and snow, forecasters said.
But, forecasters said temperatures – and the weight of the falling wet snow – could hasten melting.
" 'Ground truth' is likely to come up short of 6 inches, especially on pavement," said Don Paul, WKBW-TV meteorologist and weather contributor to The Buffalo News. "Even on high terrain, where amounts will be much higher, the snow will be high in liquid content, so 'no powder' for the skiers."
The weather service said shifting winds could aid in bringing additional snowfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches into the Buffalo Southtowns this evening from a combination of synoptic and well as upslope and weak lake-effect processes.
Today's event provides a good example of upsloping and how terrain can influence snowfall amounts. pic.twitter.com/vdyL60zRAz
— NWS Buffalo (@NWSBUFFALO) November 27, 2018
Forecasters projected 2 to 4 inches could fall in Niagara and Orleans counties.
"In addition to the snow, there will be gusty west winds today and northwest winds tonight," the weather service said.
Gusts could reach 40 mph.
"The gusty winds and temperatures falling below freezing will allow for some blowing snow, mainly across southwestern New York State where the snow may become a little drier and capable of blowing around," the weather service added.
Temperatures were forecast to dip back toward freezing overnight Tuesday and only rebound into the low to mid-30s on Wednesday with snow expected.
The average temperature in Buffalo for this time of year is in the lower 40s.
Although Sunday produced Buffalo's first above-average day for temperature since Nov. 7, its monthly average was still running about 6 degrees colder than normal overall, making it the seventh coldest November on record through Sunday.
But, the snowfall totals haven't really kept up with the cold in metro Buffalo, at least.
Through Monday, Buffalo registered 5.4 inches of total snowfall in November, which is slightly below average. November could finish at or above average, given the forecast through the end of the week. Buffalo averages about 7.9 inches during November.
Although there's expected to be some localized lake-effect snow associated with this storm, its much broader than that.
The storm is expected to carve a wide swath across much of upstate New York and northern New England over the next couple of days.
More than a foot of snow, for instance, is expected in most of inland Maine, weather service forecasters said.