Winter shows up ahead of schedule
Earliest snowfall in years sets stage for up to 7 inches of accumulation today in southern Erie County and 3-5 inches in parts of metro Buffalo
Did you look out the window Friday and groan at the snow falling in early November? Does this weekend seem a little early for a lakeeffect snowstorm in Buffalo?
With 2 inches of snow forecast in metro Buffalo, and possibly as much as 5 inches in persistent snow bands, there are some good reasons to feel that way.
The last time the season’s first 2 inches of snow fell this early was 2007.
The last time 3 inches fell this early was the October Surprise storm of 2006.
On average, the city records its first 2-inch snowfall on Nov. 25.
And only one month ago, it was 81 degrees.
“It’s just a little early,” said Jim Mitchell, meteorologist the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “Once we’re in November, it’s not unusual. We’re about there.”
Metro Buffalo and the eastern suburbs were expected to receive the first flurry of lake-effect snowfall early this morning, with most areas accumulating about 2 inches of snow, but with 3 to 5 inches possible “in the most persistent snow bands,” the weather service said.
Forecast models showed a band of snow with up to 1 inch per hour of snowfall would set up through about midday before southwesterly winds shift more westerly, steering the band to the south for the rest of the day.
“Our best chance (in the Buffalo metro area) will be over the early morning until about noon,” Mitchell said. “Then, the band is going to shift to the south.”
That’s where the heaviest lake-effect snow was expected to fall through Saturday night – over southern Erie County and across the Chautauqua Ridge. As much as 7 inches is possible.
Temperatures are expected to stall in the low to mid-30s. The average high in Buffalo for Saturday’s date is 50 degrees.
“This will be the coldest air of the season, by far,” Mitchell said.
Besides the snow and cold, winds are forecast to gust over 40 mph. Forecasters said that could create some problems with visibility on area roads. And, it will drop wind chills into the teens.
Chances for snow, mixed precipitation and temperatures in the 30s also are in the forecast Sunday, but lake-effect snow should taper off, the weather service said.
When light to moderate wet snow fell Friday morning in metro Buffalo, social media was abuzz. But, much of the snow fell onto warm ground and quickly melted. Then, precipitation turned over to rain for a time in the afternoon, eliminating most of the rest of any morning accumulation.
As that snow fell, Buffalo’s public works crews got ready for Saturday’s impending lake-effect snow. About 30 plows were expected to be dispatched over the weekend, based on the weather conditions, said Steven J. Stepniak, commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Streets during a press conference in City Hall on Friday.
Plows were out Friday morning for an annual test phase of routes.
Officially, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport logged 0.6 inches of snow through noon.
It wasn’t the first measurable now in Buffalo this season. That came on Oct. 20 when forecasters measured 0.1 inch of graupel – which counts as snow in the record books.
On average, the city records its first inch of snow Nov. 20. Last year, the season’s first snowfall of an inch or more with 1.7 inches on Dec. 6.
If you’re looking for any sort of warmup soon, maybe head toward Florida. Temperatures are forecast to remain below normal around Western New York for at least the next week to 10 days, forecasts show. That includes a developing nor’easter that could bring some rain and snow to the region Tuesday. Behind that? Even colder air, and probably more snow.
“It’ll be very cold behind that,” Mitchell said. “Probably even colder than what we’ve got coming (today).”
Marielle Smith walks down Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo on her way to work Friday as the first snowfall of the season arrives.