A lake-effect blizzard dumped several inches of snow across western New York early Friday, with snowfall totals expected to reach at least four feet in the Buffalo area through Sunday.
The storm was blamed for the deaths of two people who were struck by “cardiac events” during snow clearing.
Eleven counties remained under a state of emergency Friday as an intense band of snow swept the area.
The New York State Twitter account shared a photo of a benchmark buried inside 19 inches of snow in South Cheektowaga west of Buffalo shortly before dawn. “Keep off the roads and stay safe,” the tweet read.
Weather Channel meteorologist and storm chaser Jim Cantore, who was in the Buffalo area On Friday, a yardstick photo showing 32 inches of snow “and counting” for nearby Hamburg, New York, tweeted.
“Whether the city of Buffalo gets four feet or not is immaterial,” the famed weather forecaster told Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz Thursday. “You’re going to get something. I mean, Erie is being crushed, as we know.”
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The storm was blamed for two deaths, Poloncarz said, tweeting that they were “associated with cardiac events related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing.”
Snowfall totals were expected to vary widely due to the peculiarities of lake-effect snow, which is caused by icy air absorbing large amounts of moisture from the warmer lakes.
BUFFALO SNOW IN GRAPH:Total Snowfall in the Buffalo Area and the Causes of Lake Effect Snow
Here’s what you need to know about the blizzard:
How much snow does Buffalo get?
South Buffalo experienced snowfalls of up to 5 inches per hour in the heaviest part of the snowband on Friday, according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Paul Walker.
The storm dropped at least two feet of snow in Hamburg, Orchard Park and West Seneca south of Buffalo early Friday, NWS Buffalo meteorologist Liz Jurkowski said.
“It’s still snowing. We still have a lot more time to go,” she said Friday morning.
At Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where scheduled arriving and departing flights were canceled, the NWS recorded 12 inches of snow Friday morning.
A trained weather spotter measured 18 inches of snow Friday afternoon in Blasdell, about 9 miles south of Buffalo, the NWS reported.
Thunderstorm snow hits Buffalo as the lake effect snow warning continues
Thunderstorms, which happen when a thunderstorm drops snow instead of rain, were reported throughout Thursday night in Buffalo for several hours, according to the National Weather Service. The NWS said thunderstorm snow would continue Friday.
Heavy, wet snow brought down trees and provided insulation blackouts about the Buffalo area, Poloncarz said.
WHAT IS THUNDER SNOW? Explain how a thunderstorm can produce snow
Meanwhile, a lake-effect snow warning went through Friday in Erie County.
“The main problem with lake-effect snow is that it builds up on roofs and can cause them to collapse under the weight of the snow, not to mention the loss of power,” Walker told USA TODAY.
The warning was expected to turn into a winter storm watch for southern Erie County on Saturday, Jurkowski said.
“If the snow band drifts into Niagara County on Saturday, it will drift back south Saturday night, so if that happens there’s a possibility for another 10 inches (snow),” Jurkowski said.
MORE EFFECT SNOW, EXPLAINED: How it happens and how much snow it can bring
There is a travel ban on Buffalo for some areas due to “treacherous” driving conditions
Erie County issued a travel ban on non-emergency vehicles on Thursday. On Friday, it was downgraded to a travel advisory for Buffalo, though the ban remained in effect for others parts of the provincesaid Poloncarz.
“Roads are slippery and snowy, and in this tire there is no visibility,” Jurkowski told USA TODAY.
“There are winds that help blow that around, limiting visibility,” said Jurkowski, who called the current driving conditions in the Buffalo area “treacherous and horrible.”
Several roads were closed, including parts of the New York State Thruway, due to unsafe conditions. This was reported by the district of Hamburg in Erie County drivers get stuck on “highly dangerous” roads while several plow drivers cleared snow.
Buffalo webcam: watch live
The snow forecast for this weekend for Buffalo
Lake-effect snow and intense showers were expected to continue through Friday evening and late Saturday, Walker said.
“There may be some shifting of these bands, so it’s not always going to be the same place it’s going to be all the time, but it looks like some snow will continue to come off the lake tomorrow and Sunday,” Walker said.
According to the NWS, the amount of snow was expected to reach 1.2 meters. “We’re still on track for that,” Jurkowski said.
Contributors: Victoria E. Freile, Democrat and Chronicle; Doyle Rice, TODAY USA; The The Bharat Express News