A powerful winter storm is expected to continue delivering heavy snow to upstate New York and other parts of the Northeast on Thursday, bringing dangerous road conditions at least through the end of the week.
Several inches of snow have already fallen in parts of New York, and several feet of snow are still in the forecast for the metro areas of Buffalo and Watertown, New York, and northwest Pennsylvania Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Snowfall rates in some spots may reach up to 3 inches per hour, with snow piling up to 4 feet in some local areas.
“Visibility will drop to near zero at times and roadways will be covered with snow making travel hazardous to nearly impossible,” the National Weather Service warned.
To bolster response to the multi-day storm, the New York governor plans to issue a state of emergency Thursday morning.
“My team and I are deploying emergency response assets ahead of the storm, remain in constant contact with local officials, and are laser focused on the forecast. New Yorkers should remain vigilant ahead of the storm and avoid any unnecessary travel during these hazardous conditions,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a news release.
In anticipation of the looming miserable commute conditions, commercial traffic will be banned on about 130 miles of the New York State Thruway (I-90) in the Rochester and Buffalo area to the Pennsylvania border starting at 4 p.m. Thursday, according to the news release from the governor’s office.
“Do not underestimate this storm,” said Jackie Bray, commissioner for New York state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. “We should all check on our neighbors, particularly vulnerable neighbors, to help them prepare for winter weather in the forecast.”
As of Wednesday night, more than 8 inches of snow had already fallen in parts of the upstate New York town of Colden, which is about 25 miles southeast of Buffalo, according to the weather service. 10 inches of snow had blanketed parts of nearby South Wales, the weather service reported late Wednesday night. Other areas in the state saw up to 5 inches of snow as of Wednesday.
The heaviest snow is expected to begin Thursday evening and last through Friday, with some periods of heavy snow over the weekend, according to the weather service. Areas downwind of lakes Erie and Ontario are in path to see the brunt of snowfall, which may be joined by thunder and lightning.
“This is going to be a very long lasting and major lake-effect snow event east of Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock told CNN.
“This event will have the very real potential to produce a paralyzing snowfall that could be measured in feet for the Buffalo and Watertown metro areas,” the Buffalo weather service said.
A lake effect snow warning is in effect through the region, where 2 to 3 feet of snow accumulation is expected with the potential for up to 4 feet of snow.
Lake effect snowstorms usually occur in areas surrounding a body of water that is relatively warmer than the surrounding areas. They typically bring heavy snowfall in narrow bands, making it somewhat challenging to forecast exact impact locations and amounts of snow to expect.