NEW YORK — Buffalo and western New York are facing several feet of snow from a “crippling” and “paralyzing” storm later this week, in the words of the National Weather Service.
Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon and announced that the New York State Thruway would be closed to commercial traffic starting Thursday at 4 p.m. from Rochester to the Pennsylvania border. The storm was expected to make travel hazardous and potentially knock out power.
Starting as a mix of rain, snow, and possible hail, the precipitation was predicted to morph into an all-snow storm Wednesday night, the NWS said.
The intensity will be fueled by Lakes Ontario and Erie, with some parts of Erie County getting up to an inch of snow an hour as temperatures drop from the 30s to the 20s and other areas getting as many as three inches hourly. There might even be “thundersnow,” according to the NWS.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz recommended that schools and businesses close on Friday so plows and emergency vehicles can do their work.
“We need to take the upcoming snow storm seriously,” Poloncarz urged on Twitter. “It is VERY rare for the NWS Buffalo to declare a snow storm as ‘extreme’ on the severity index. Up to 3 feet of snow is possible from tonight to Friday night, with almost all of it falling starting tomorrow night.”
From Thursday through Sunday nights, “crippling lake effect snow” was possible, the NWS said. A high-pressure ridge from Alaska and Northwest Canada “will dislodge a plume of Arctic air southward, flowing down across the Great Lakes and lingering” for the weekend.
Compounding the situation is warmer-than-ever water in Great Lakes Ontario and Erie. The warm water coupled with cold air generates even more snow, Weather.com said.
Northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan were also under winter storm warnings and watches, Weather.com reported.