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Afternoon commute update: 'The worst will be after rush hour'

The lake-effect storm has drifted north of the Buffalo metro area and become somewhat disorganized.

But don't let the lull fool you.

The band is expected to intensify again, sometime between 5 and 9 p.m.

"It looks like the worst will be after rush hour," said Kirk Apffel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

However, there's plenty of snow on the ground and that will most certainly have an impact on the drive home for anyone heading north out of Buffalo this afternoon and evening. Winds will be kicking up to about 25 mph.

While it doesn't look like commuters would need to leave work early, forecasters did urge motorists to take it slow and avoid tailgating.

Then the band is expected to set up again this evening, somewhere between Buffalo and Niagara Falls and sit there through the night.

"Anywhere in those areas, you're going to see some snow," Apffel said, at a rate up as much as two inches per hour.

A travel advisory – not a ban – has been issued for the City of Buffalo and northern Erie County.

“We are urging residents to stay off the roads as much as possible during this winter event, for their own protection and to minimize potential problems for the Public Works and Emergency Services personnel who will be working to keep us all safe during this winter storm,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Commuters heading to the Southtowns shouldn't have too much of a problem. Hardly any snow has fallen south of the metro area, but that's supposed to change Wednesday when the band shifts over the Southtowns and ski country.

[What to expect in the next 36 hours of WNY weather]

Meteorologists are now forecasting 18 inches to about 2 feet of snow will envelope the metro Buffalo area by Thursday – up from an earlier prediction of a foot.

That's because the lake-effect band intensified a little earlier than predicted, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell explained at about 1:20 p.m.

The snow will be accompanied by powerful winds that could cause blizzard-like conditions and dangerous cold wind chills of minus 20 to minus 35. A multitude of storm warnings and watches are in effect, including a winter storm warning, wind chill warning, flash flood watch and lakeshore flood advisory.

It's also going to get really, really cold. Temperatures are forecast to drop, bottoming out around 4 degrees overnight. With the wind, it'll feel like minus 15 degrees, forecasters said.

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