A change in the weather Monday morning brought an end to Western New York’s weeklong deep freeze, but it wasn’t necessarily a change for the better.
The thermometer’s climb above the freezing mark was accompanied by nearly 2 inches of slushy snow. Slippery highways were blamed for a fatal crash on Route 5 on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation and were a factor in numerous minor accidents.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office reported that Donald Murray, 76, of Angola, was killed when his westbound vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane directly in front of a vehicle driven by Steven Forthman, 43, of Silver Creek.
Deputies said Murray was pronounced dead at the scene, while Forthman was taken to Lake Shore Hospital, Irving, where he was listed in serious condition with non-life threatening injuries.
“All indications are that it was weather-related,” Sheriff Timothy B. Howard said.
Two tractor-trailers skidded and flipped on their sides in the Southtowns – one on Jamison Road in Elma, another on the ramp connecting Route 400 and Union Road in West Seneca – but no major injuries were reported.
In another accident, at about 8 a.m. in Niagara Falls, a state trooper was in an SUV struck by a car that slid out of control on snow and ice on the northbound Niagara Thruway. The car crossed the median, went airborne and struck the southbound State Police Chevrolet Tahoe.
The trooper was taken to an area hospital with minor injuries, while troopers charged the other driver, Eric J. Smith, 27, of Lewiston, with failure to keep right and speed not reasonable and prudent.
The snow, which turned to sleet and freezing rain later in the morning, caused major problems on some roadways, including the Youngmann Highway in Amherst and the Town of Tonawanda, and Millersport Highway in Amherst. Fog and drizzle prevailed as temperatures rose into the 40s later in the day.
Showers are expected to continue as a southerly flow of warmer air produces highs around 50 today and near 60 on Wednesday, which would set a record for the date. The warmest Jan. 30 in Buffalo occurred in 1916, when the thermometer hit 56 degrees.
The heat won’t hold, however. Forecasters say that sharply colder air will arrive later Wednesday, accompanied by strong winds, plunging temperatures into the mid 20s.
Sub-freezing weather will prevail through the start of the weekend, with daily highs in the teens and low 20s, and overnight lows in the single digits. A sharp breeze is expected to make it feel even colder.
Forecasters are predicting lake-effect snow to start south of the metro Buffalo area on Friday and move up into the city and suburbs when a clipper system arrives on Saturday.
The new cold snap shouldn’t stick around as long as the last one, though. Milder air is due to work its way into the region early next week.
News Staff Reporters Maki Becker and Gene Warner contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org