Traveling to work today will be tough for motorists across Western New York. Coming home might be downright treacherous.
That’s because a widespread winter storm will impact the entire region. There could be up to a foot or more of snow from the City of Buffalo north, and a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain south of the metro area that could encase some areas in up to a quarter-inch of ice followed by 4 to 6 inches of accumulating snow.
Budgeting significantly more time for travel to arrive safely and on time at your destination will be essential throughout the day, according to National Weather Service forecasters and area law enforcement officers.
“The heavy snow is really going to be beginning right about commute time. It’s a really close call,” Jon Hitchcock, National Weather Service meteorologist in Buffalo, said late Thursday. “During the morning, travel conditions will deteriorate significantly and the afternoon drive will be a very, very slow one.
“People will need to allow extra time.”
Meteorologists were desperately trying late Thursday to pin down the exact time the storm, located in the Plains states Thursday, would trek across the region. The weather service projected that the heaviest snow will fall from mid-morning through early this evening for areas including Buffalo and northern Erie County along with Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties.
A mixed bag of snow, sleet and freezing rain was expected “mainly south of a line from Buffalo to Batavia,” where there will be a warm layer of air aloft, according to weather service forecasters.
The heaviest amounts of sleet and freezing rain will fall further south, with the best chance in the Southern Tier, and along the Lake Erie shoreline, including into the Southtowns through the morning hours before becoming all snow by midday. The freezing rain could result in ice accumulating between one-tenth and one-quarter inch.
Although it is unlikely that the wintry mixture will be heavy enough to bring down trees or power lines, it could lead to even more hazardous conditions later on.
“Snow on top of that could be treacherous,” said meteorologist Tom Paone.
The National Weather Service has posted a winter storm warning for the Niagara Frontier from 1 a.m. today to 5 a.m. Saturday.
Travel throughout the Northeast will be treacherous all day, with the most severe effects of the storm in New England where the weather service is projecting a “potentially historic winter storm.” Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning for New York City, Connecticut and the Boston area.
In Western New York this morning, snow could fall at a rate of about one inch over three hours, and the snow will continue throughout the day. The Buffalo area can expect 6 to 12 inches of snow, with higher amounts to the north and in Niagara and Orleans counties.
Today’s high projected to be near 32 in metro Buffalo, with temperatures expected to dip below freezing this afternoon.
Because temperatures will be in the 30s, the snow will be heavier than the light, fluffy lake-effect snow, forecasters added.
Snow is expected to start tapering off tonight and be done falling by midday Saturday, according to the weather service. There’s a chance of flurries and freezing drizzle before 11 a.m. Saturday, but the rest of the day should be partly sunny, with a high near 23. Mostly sunny skies are forecast for Sunday.