A winter wonderland greeted Western New Yorkers this morning, complicating travel plans and last-minute preparations for Thanksgiving.
A powerful winter storm, fueled by an intense low-pressure system that developed in the Gulf of Mexico, made its northeastward trek as expected on Tuesday, dumping inches of rain in the Southeast, coating Atlantic states with ice and covering most of upstate New York with snow.
Winter storm warnings were posted for all day today as snow was expected to keep accumulating until early Thursday. When all is said and done, there could be anywhere from 4 inches to more than a foot of snow on the ground.
Snowfall should be lightest in Buffalo, northern Erie County and Niagara County, where the storm warnings are due to expire first. Heaviest snows are forecast for areas south and east of Buffalo. For good measure, strong northwest winds are expected today, causing blowing and drifting snow and making driving even more hazardous.
National Weather Service meteorologist David Thomas said Tuesday evening that the storm was proceeding pretty much as predicted.
“It’s about what we were thinking as far as the tracking goes,” he said. “It’s kind of a long-duration event. By Thursday morning, it should be through.”
Road crews worked throughout the night to clear highways throughout the region. In Buffalo, 25 to 30 pieces of equipment began spreading salt before the snow even started falling Tuesday afternoon.
The weather affected some of the flights into and out of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, mostly because of the storm’s impact elsewhere across the eastern third of the country.
Airlines delayed departures to Atlanta, Charlotte, Baltimore, Newark, Philadelphia, Tampa, Detroit and New York City, while some of flights into the Buffalo airport from those cities were more than 90 minutes late Tuesday.
It’s likely that travel delays will continue today as millions along the Eastern Seaboard attempt to get to their Thanksgiving Day destinations.
Almost 430 flights were canceled because of the storm Monday at U.S. airports, 320 of them at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as the system passed through there, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking company. At least 10 people died in the South as a result of the storm, the Associated Press reported.
Wind advisories and high-wind watches stretched from Maine to Delaware, the National Weather Service said. Winter storm warnings and advisories were posted from Maine to South Carolina.
By Thanksgiving morning, the sun will be out in New York, although high winds may still be sweeping the area, Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said Tuesday.
The winds might make it difficult for crews to handle the giant balloons that are the trademark of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, Carolan said.
A decision on whether to ground balloons or fly them lower will be made in consultation with police on Thanksgiving morning, Holly Thomas, Macy’s vice president for media relations, said in an email.
The wintry forecast sent many folks in the Buffalo area to the supermarkets, not just in search of milk, bread or other necessities, but also provisions for the holiday dinner table.
“I have stuff for Thanksgiving dinner. If tomorrow you can’t go out, I’m getting it now,” said Eloiza Lozada, a West Side resident who loaded several bags into her son-in-law’s truck Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of the Niagara Street Tops Market.
Lozada stocked up on supplies for her special Pavochon turkey and sofrito, a special Puerto Rican-style holiday recipe, while her son-in-law, Samuel Garcia, had bags of his own to cook Turkey Fricassee in his “witch’s pot.”
Garcia also was following the storm forecast for another reason. As an employee of a local plowing company, he was preparing for his first snow shift of the season.
“Have to be at work by 5 a.m.,” said a smiling Garcia.
Inside the store, assistant store manager Lloyd Wonch was making sure the shelves were stocked on a busier than usual Tuesday afternoon.
The store was going to busy anyway because of Thanksgiving. Adding the impending storm into the mix just meant even more customers.