Look around. Seem familiar?
It’s been a while since Buffalo took the brunt of a full-fledged winter storm. The last real blast, in December 2010, caught an array of plow crews flatfooted and stranded motorists in a Thruway no-man’s land.
Since then, major winter Nor’easters have skirted Buffalo and dumped their havoc on cities to the east.
The storm that tore up from the southern Plains Wednesday started throwing snow in the city at about 4 p.m., with the City of Buffalo receiving from 12 to 15 inches overnight, city officials reported this morning.
Department of Public Work officials reported most main and secondary roads were open in Buffalo and said crews have begun removing snow from residential streets. Motorists were advised to leave extra time for the morning commute, when traffic will be lighter than normal because schools are closed for the holiday recess.
A winter storm warning that was set to expire at 10 a.m. today was lifted a few hours earlier because the heaviest part of the storm had blown through the region overnight, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Kelly at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
Only an inch or two of more snow was expected Thursday with the possibility of some freezing drizzle, but the commute home later this afternoon could present challenges with strong winds picking up, Kelly added.
“We are expecting winds of 10 to 20 mph with gusts of up to 30 mph and that could cause blowing and drifting snow,” Kelly said.
An inch of snow “at best” could fall during the rush hour tonight, he added.
Winds tapered off Wednesday evening, from 25 to 30 mph to about 10 to 15 mph, still high enough to swirl the powder and strain visibility. The strong winds of Wednesday also created a seiche, when water is pushed from one end of shallow Lake Erie to the other.
Wind-driven seiches on the lake usually push water toward Buffalo, but Wednesday’s gales lowered the water level here by some 2 feet and lifted it by roughly the same measure in Toledo, Ohio, Weather Service meteorologist Bill Hibbert said.
With snow falling at nearly one inch an hour, motorists crept home after the work day Wednesday. People were injured in wrecks in Buffalo at Main Street and Winspear Avenue and in Cheektowaga near the Walden Galleria.
On the Thruway, a car slid into a ditch near the Williamsville toll barrier, state police said. The Thruway Authority reported several cars off the road along the highway.
With snow falling even faster in the Southern Tier, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office said there had been many storm-related accidents, and Sheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb advised against unnecessary travel.
At 7 p.m., when the Buffalo airport had 3 inches of snow on the ground, the Cattaraugus County town of Allegany had 10 inches, according to Weather Service data.
Flights into Buffalo airport, meanwhile, were canceled or delayed because of delays at other airports.
“Our main runway is open,’’ said C. Douglas Hartmayer, speaking for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
Across the border, Niagara Regional Police reported a 24-year-old man was killed when his snowmobile collided with a van shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday on Regional Road Twenty Four at Tice Road, in the Township of West Lincoln, Ont. The man, whose name was not released, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The storm threatened to roll through most of New York State before continuing north toward Maine.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo activated the “State Emergency Operations Center” to monitor the weather and any emergency needs. It was staffed by leaders from an array of agencies, such as the state police, Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, among others.
The Thruway Authority said it would devote its 600 maintenance employees, 96 seven-ton snowplows, 52 front-end loaders and three truck-mounted snow blowers to ensure the system remains open throughout the storm. The DOT committed its 1,346 plows, 300 loaders and 35 snowblowers statewide.
The Governor’s Office also urged power companies that operate in New York to brace for the power failures that the storm could trigger. Cuomo had become frustrated by the length of time that power remained out around the New York City metropolitan area after Superstorm Sandy.
One of his top aides, Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz, sent a letter to the chief executives of utility companies saying, “The State of New York will hold your company accountable for its performance.”
The return of a real winter storm could have been worse. The snow hit on the opening day for Kissing Bridge. And with the National Hockey League season gone dark, thousands of fans didn’t venture out to the First Niagara Center for the Sabres game once scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Across the region, plows were expected to rumble along until dawn.
“We will plow continuously until [this morning] at 7 o’clock,” Bob Anderson, the Amherst Highway superintendent, said at about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The 35 plows his department devoted to keeping the streets open spent the first hours laying down salt to prevent ice on the roadways, then plowed the snow aside along the approximately 370 center-line miles of road that are the town’s responsibility.
“Everything is open, but it’s just a constant pounding of snow,” Anderson said. “This is a typical winter storm. It is just snowing, snowing, snowing.”