A dangerous lake-effect snowstorm paralyzed parts of western and northern New York, with more than a foot of snow already on the ground Friday morning in places and a driving ban keeping people off the roads in the Buffalo area.
The worst snowfall was expected in Buffalo, where the National Weather Service said up to 4 feet might fall in some spots through Sunday, with periods of near-zero visibility. Other areas could get a foot or less of the lake-effect snow, which is caused by frigid air picking up copious amounts of moisture from the warmer lakes.
The weather service received reports early Friday of more than a foot of snow along the eastern end of Lake Erie, with totals as high as 19.5 inches in Buffalo and up to 22.5 inches in Hamburg, New York, about 12 miles from Buffalo.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Thursday for parts of western New York, including communities along the eastern ends of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Hochul’s state of emergency covers 11 counties, with commercial truck traffic banned from a stretch of Interstate 90.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a driving ban beginning Thursday night, shortly after heavy snow punctuated by thunder and lightning moved into Buffalo. The ban on nonemergency vehicles on roadways was downgraded to an advisory for the city of Buffalo on Friday, but the ban remained in effect in some other parts of the county, Poloncarz said. The most intense snowfall was expected to last through Friday evening, with more falling on Saturday into Sunday.
A car carrying a TV news crew reporting on the storm got stuck early Friday and had to be pushed out of the snow by onlookers, WGRZ reporter Alexandra Rios said on Twitter.
“Our car got stuck after our 4:30a live shot,” Rios tweeted. “Then, at one point about 6 people gathered together to help us out.” She said they told her that Buffalo residents “always come together when someone is in need.”
Administrators canceled Friday classes for students in Buffalo and throughout the county. Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Depew closed Thursday and will stay closed Friday, The Buffalo News reported, while numerous flights in and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled.
Also ahead of the storm, the NFL announced it would relocate the Buffalo Bills’ home game against the Cleveland Browns to Detroit on Sunday.
The switch in sites means the Bills will play back-to-back games in Detroit, as they are scheduled to play the Lions on Thanksgiving.
The weather service also warned of accumulations of 2 feet or more of snow in northern New York on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, and in parts of northern Michigan through Sunday. Parts of Pennsylvania also were seeing accumulations of lake-effect snow.