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Dispatch from Hamburg: Behind illusion of calm, brutal winds and cold

The difference between a snowstorm and a blizzard has been on display Wednesday in Hamburg. Snowfall has been steady, but it’s the brutal cold and wind that are making conditions hazardous.

Unlike the storm of November 2014, when several feet of snow clogged Hamburg streets and made travel virtually impossible for days, Wednesday’s storm projects the illusion of calm. In parts of town, side streets are passable and sunshine accompanies the snow. But frequent gusts are wiping out visibility and making travel dangerous. Around 1 p.m., the Town of Hamburg declared a state of emergency and instituted a travel ban.

[Complete coverage of the January 2019 blizzard]

Those driving despite Wednesday afternoon’s ban faced unsafe conditions. Main routes, like South Park Avenue, are treacherous. High winds are whipping the snow across roadways, creating drifts and periods of whiteout conditions. In the subzero conditions, even a well cleared windshield was susceptible to icing. At mid-afternoon, an SUV trying to turn into a plaza misjudged the entrance by at least 10 feet as piles of snow and limited visibility made it difficult to navigate. A large pickup truck equipped with a plow found itself on its side in a ditch near the Erie County Fairgrounds.

Entering the day, Hamburg had been spared the worst of this storm. In a reversal of typical weather patterns, commuters on Tuesday found better conditions the closer they were to the Southtowns.

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