Heavy snow is expected to continue to pile up in western New York state through Sunday after a historic storm in the Buffalo area saw record snowfalls totaling more than 6 feet in some areas.
Just after 11 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Buffalo issued a special weather statement warning that a band of heavy snow accompanied by winds up to 30 miles per hour could cause a “gust of snow” in the West of the state of New York caused. The band is moving south of the Buffalo and Rochester metropolitan areas, it said.
“This heavy snow band produces extremely heavy snow at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour,” the NWS said. “Take extra care if you must travel… Rapid changes in visibility and potentially slick roads can lead to accidents.”
While the Buffalo area is used to heavy snowfall, this storm is delivering “a lot more than we normally get,” Mayor Byron Brown told CNN on Saturday.
Erie County, which includes Buffalo, experienced its largest snowfall in a 24-hour period on Saturday, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Since the snow started falling, two people have died from heart complications related to shoveling and trying to clear the ground, he said.
As the heaviest snow south of the Buffalo metro area slides into southern Erie and Chautauqua counties overnight, an additional 6 to 18 inches is possible in the region, particularly in higher terrain, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
Stronger winds accompanying an approaching cold front will extend snow bands from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario further inland through Sunday, he said.
Snowfall totaling more than 6 feet was recorded at two locations, according to the National Weather Service. Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, gained 77.0 inches over a 48-hour period, and Natural Bridge, east of Watertown, gained 72.3 inches – historic numbers for the area.
The multi-day event has complicated travel in the region, triggering road closures, driving bans and flight cancellations over the weekend leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
On Saturday night, the NWS warned the latest band would tighten travel conditions in minutes.
“Intense lake effect snow has returned to the Buffalo office. Visibility is only a few hundred meters and the roads are snow-covered. Stay where you are for the next few hours, if you can, until that ribbon of snow swings through on its way to the Boston Hills and Southern Tier. NWS Buffalo said.
Nearly 400 subpoenas were issued to drivers found to be violating travel bans in the area, Erie County Executive Branch Poloncarz said.
“If you attempt to enter an area that has a travel ban in place, you will meet a friendly neighborhood New York State Trooper who will immediately issue you with a travel ban violation ticket,” Poloncarz said.
Authorities are towing away vehicles that are stuck on the side of the road or involved in accidents because of travelers traveling during the blizzard, he said.
Air travelers did not fare much better, as dozens of flights arriving and departing from Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled as storm conditions worsened, according to the airport’s website.
The airport was hiring Daily snowfall record of 17.2 inches on Saturday, shattering the daily record of 7.6 inches previously set in 2014, the local weather agency said.
This month is already the third snowiest November in Buffalo thanks to the storm, according to the airport local weather service office.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul touted the state’s storm preparedness Saturday afternoon and said crews had been working tirelessly to manage the situation.
“This is the effort that brought us together: bringing together resources, people and equipment from across New York state. And because we took such a preventative approach to this strike, we were able to avert a lot of tragedy,” Hochul said.
She thanked Western New Yorkers for closing major freeways, imposing travel bans, and staying home before the snow began to fall, which helped prevent accidents, protect lives, and ensure the roads are safe and for rescue services are free.
Hochul said she is doubling the number of New York National Guard members on the ground in Erie County to patrol residents and help clear snow.
She also signs an application for federal reimbursement through a federal disaster declaration.
Winter weather warnings remained in effect Saturday night for more than 8 million people in six Great Lakes states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Buffalo Mayor Brown said the city could return to “some sense of normality” by Monday or Tuesday, assuming the worst of the storm is over by Sunday.
“This was a very unpredictable storm, with snow bands moving back and forth from north to south,” Brown said. “The snow came down very quickly, very wet, very heavy.”