More snow could fall today than on any other day this winter.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening ramped up its forecast for the storm coming in today, issuing a blizzard warning to replace its earlier winter storm warning. The forecast calls for 9 to 17 inches of snow.
“The warmer air is trying to battle in,” said Jim Mitchell, a weather service meteorologist. “And the winter doesn’t want to let go.”
Fueled by a pair of storm systems – one from the west and the other from the Gulf Coast – combining into “one powerhouse of a storm,” Western New York will be pulled back into bone-chilling temperatures, heavy snow and howling winds of up to 45 miles per hour. Visibility will be near zero at times from late this morning into the evening hours.
“As the morning moves on into the afternoon, the snow will pick up, and the winds will pick up,” Mitchell said.
The temperatures are forecast to drop rapidly through the 20s and back into the single digits tonight. With wind gusts above 30 mph, wind chills will plunge below zero.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced late Tuesday that all county offices will be closed today. However, he said, emergency and essential employees should report to work.
All Buffalo Public Schools and several suburban schools will be closed today.
Niagara County officials also announced government offices would be closed today.
All Buffalo & Erie County Library branches in Buffalo will be closed, including the Central Library.
The 7.3-inch snowfall record for March 12 is in jeopardy, as is the high daily snow mark of the season: 8.8 inches on Feb. 5.
With up to a foot and a half of snow forecast, it would also become the heaviest snowfall of any storm this season.
More than the 17.6 inches fell over the three-day “Blizzard of ’14” Jan. 6-8. An even foot of snow fell during a mid-December lake-effect snowstorm. Just more than 8 inches fell over three days during Thanksgiving week.
Add it up, and the winter blast has a lot of residents yearning for warmer days.
“I don’t like that at all,” said Nicole Torres, a senior at Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, who took in some sunshine Tuesday afternoon at the Central Wharf. “It’s bipolar! I can’t wait for the spring.”
The temperature reached 50 degrees Tuesday, the first time since reaching 51 degrees Jan. 13. But to many it might have felt 20 degrees warmer given how this month started, with a string of six straight days with lows in the single digits or below zero.
Mark Mitschow, walking his dog, Rey, called Tuesday afternoon’s mild weather the “calm before the storm.”
“I saw some guys on motorcycles today, trying to get one last run in before we get another dose of winter – because we need another dose of winter,” Mitschow laughed.
“What are you going to do? It’s March in Western New York. Then we’ll get summer soon, and we’ll all complain it’s too hot.”
Today’s storm system, expected to follow a track across Pennsylvania, is projected to bring widespread precipitation across the Northeast, with the heaviest of the snowfall concentrated north of the system, across upstate New York.
A blizzard warning remains in place through 5 a.m. Thursday.
An inch was expected by dawn today, with 6 to 10 more inches expected during the day, and 3 to 6 more inches tonight. Gusty northern winds up to 45 mph will produce “near whiteout conditions” and “near zero” visibility at times, the Weather Service reported.
“The last time we had a March storm like this was in 2008,” said Shawn Smith, Weather Service meteorologist.
From central Pennsylvania south, including Pittsburgh, precipitation is expected in the form of rain, while mixed precipitation – rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain – is expected in New York’s Southern Tier and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.
Behind the storm, there will be another day or two in the icebox for Western New York.
Temperatures are forecast to drop to the single digits again by tonight, rise to the mid-teens Thursday and then plunge back into the single digits Thursday night.
Friday’s high, forecast to be about 37 degrees, will be closer to normal.
Preparations for the storm were already well underway Tuesday.
Local highway chiefs mobilized crews; all seemed to wonder “when” and “how much?”
“All our trucks are full of salt,” said Cheektowaga Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner. “Plows are on; all fueled up and ready to go.”
School closings for today:
Alden, Amherst Central, Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo Seminary, Cardinal O’Hara High, Clarence Central, Depew, Canisius High, Cheektowaga Central, Cheektowaga-Sloan, Frontier, Grand Island Central, Ken-Ton, Lockport City Schools, Lew-Port Central, Maryvalle, Niagara Falls Schools, Nichols, North Tonawanda City Schools, Williamsville Central, St. Amelia, St. Benedict, St. Christopher, St. Gregory the Great, St. Joseph Collegiate Institute St. Mary’s High School, Sweet Home Central, Tonawanda City Schools.
News Staff Reporters Janice L. Habuda, Mark Sommer and Lou Michel contributed to this report. email: email@example.com