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The first measurable flakes of snow in a long, long time dropped on downtown Buffalo on Sunday, so it would be understandable if people were a bit confused.

The 1.6 inches that landed – 14 days earlier than the first snow last year – ended the third-longest snow drought in Buffalo since the early 20th century.

And last winter season was hardly a banner year for accumulation, with the lowest amount of snow recorded since just after the end of World War II.

So it came as no great surprise that the first significant snowfall also contributed to numerous weather-related crashes and fender-benders Sunday.

Still, a lot of people were giddy with the arrival of snowfall – and hoped the crystals would fall heavily for the next few months.

“I’m so excited. It always feels more like Christmas when the snow starts to come,” said Catherine Phillips, of East Aurora, a junior at Canisius College. “Last winter was so sad because there was no snow. I love to play in the snow, and I hope there’s tons of it.”

“I want more, that’s all the fun right there,” said local barista Sarah Stone, who works at Coffee Culture on Elmwood Avenue. “You get to throw snowballs, make little angels and snowmen. Bring it on!”

Added Jeffrey Webb, walking along Elmwood, “This is Buffalo. My daughter was born in the Blizzard of ’77. It’s perfect, it’s a four-season city, and you get it all here in Buffalo.”

It’s been awhile.

It had been 276 days since the last snowfall in Buffalo. That was third only to the 301-day drought in 1923-24, and the 282 snowless days in 1948.

It’s not like Buffalonians got a lot of practice last winter, either, when a measly 36.7 inches of snow fell, and not an inch or more at a time after Feb. 22.

That total was behind only the 25 inches registered in the winter of 1918-19, and the 22.4 inches in 1889-90.

Those totals were measured by the National Weather Service at the downtown office, long before its move to the Buffalo airport in Cheektowaga in 1943.

Last year’s snowfall also was well below the 94.7-inch seasonal average, which was readjusted two years ago and no longer computes the snow-heavy late-1970s in its 30-year computation.

“In four of the last seven winters, we’ve had below-normal snowfall,” said meteorologist David Thomas. “Of the three winters that were above normal, they were not by much.

“Looking further back, the first five winters of the 2000 decade were actually above normal, and that included the winter of 2000 and 2001, when we actually had 158.7 inches of snow.”

Thomas said a lot depends on the fickleness of lake-effect snow.

He remembered in 2010 how nearly 4 feet of snow landed about 3.5 miles south of the airport.

“If that snow band was four miles further to the north, the 111 inches in 2010-2011 might have been much greater,” Thomas said.

Climate change hasn’t been identified as the reason for the drop in snowfall, he said. But Miguel Montes, who was out with his infant daughter Sunday, said he was concerned about it.

“It’s the global warming, that’s what scares me,” Montes said.

The snow didn’t help matters on the Thruway. State police who patrol its western portion responded to 36 crashes between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. between the Silver Creek and Le Roy exits, and on the Niagara Thruway, according to Sgt. Gregory Peron.

Two of the crashes left motorists with minor injuries, and 17 caused vehicle damage, while the rest involved vehicles that had to be towed out of ditches or off the road, he said.

“It’s not really a major snowfall. Just a vast majority of people that aren’t slowing down or taking due care,” Peron said.

Among snow detractors Sunday was Shawn Garlinger, who was waiting to catch a bus.

“I hate the snow. It’s the devil’s weather. There no good thing about snow. The only thing I look forward to in winter is the hockey season, and unfortunately there is none,” Garlinger said.

Still, he said, Buffalo winters are not all bad.

“The one thing you’ve got to like about the snow is that it’s in Buffalo, and the people definitely make it worthwhile living here.”

Both Phillips and Stone, who love the snow, agreed with the people aspect.

Stone shared the view that heavy snowfall fosters community, and, inevitably leads to potlucks at the homes of friends.

“Everyone is out shoveling,” said Phillips, “and like, ‘Oh, I’m stuck in the snow’ and we’re all in the same boat, and everyone is kind of neighborly, and it’s fun.”

News Staff Reporter Stephen Watson contributed to this report. email: msommer@buffnews.com