We’re on the threshold of another milestone: 100 inches of snowfall.
This likely will be the quickest we’ve tallied the mark in more than a decade.
Heap that statistic atop the pile of other wintry highlights: the Thanksgiving week snowstorm, our first blizzard in 21 years, and inclusion in the “Top 10” of all-time snowiest Januaries. All of that follows back-to-back mild winters, which explains why Winter 2013-14 feels just so much longer, colder and more jarring.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, some 97.2 inches of snow has fallen so far this winter at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
That already eclipses the average amount of snowfall – 95.4 inches – over an entire season and is about two feet more than normal for this date on the calendar.
How did it all accumulate so fast?
“We did get 42.4 inches of snow in January, along with a couple rounds of larger-system snowstorms,” said Dan Kelly, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
All that snow has made this an awesome winter for sledding, and George Phillips and his son, George, 9, of Buffalo, go sledding a couple times a week at Delaware Park.
“Since he’s got the week off, it’s conducive to sledding,” Phillips said.
They lived in Kentucky for two years, where winter activities, like sledding on a late February afternoon, were not available.
“It’s one of the good things about being back,” Phillips said.
The last time we reached 100 inches, in 2010-11, it took a 3½-inch snowfall on March 6 to reach the milestone.
Of the preceding four times it happened – in 2008-09, 2007-08, 2004-05 and 2003-04 – the triple-digit mark was reached once in March and three times in April.
Tuesday morning’s wintry blast, which cut visibility and temporarily closed the Skyway, dropped more than two inches of snow as winds gusted above 40 mph.
It looked like we’d break the 100-inch mark by afternoon.
But the system moved on too fast.
So when will we get over the hump?
“Probably not in the next day or two,” Kelly said. “We do have another chance of snow toward the end of the weekend, Sunday night into Monday.”
It’s been a steady climb toward 100 inches for the Queen City, which has struck the mark eight times since 2000-01.
But the pace was too slow for the Golden Snow Globe Contest, a tally of the top 10 snowiest cities of more than 100,000 people. Buffalo currently stands fourth behind Erie, Pa.; Grand Rapids, Mich. and Syracuse.
Erie – which had recorded 112.6 inches as of Tuesday – leads Buffalo by more than a foot.
Grand Rapids boasts 101.1 inches.
Syracuse, which recently overtook Buffalo in the race for the “Golden Snowball” award – a contest among the five upstate cities for highest seasonal snowfall – scored an even 100 inches when one-tenth of an inch of snow fell Tuesday.
Make no mistake, we have seen plenty of snow – just not the monster snowfalls. Unlike some whopper lake-effect storms that have dropped 18, 24 or 30 inches of snow at a time in Buffalo, the highest daily snow total here this season occurred Feb. 5 when 8.8 inches fell.
Buffalo’s season revved up early with 10 inches of November snow – mostly over a three-day period leading into Thanksgiving Day.
The season’s weekly snow high so far – 18.3 inches – fell from Jan. 5-11, during the Blizzard of ’14.
Plenty of precipitation will fall over the next few days. But forecasts mostly call for rain.
Today, forecasters expect on-and-off rain and snow showers with highs in the upper 30s.
By Thursday, temperatures could surpass 40 degrees for the first time since Jan. 14. With rain – even the possibility of an “embedded thunderstorm” – in the forecast, the weather service has posted a flood watch from Ripley to Watertown from 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 p.m. Friday. The monthlong marathon of frigid cold included a 10-day stretch of lows in the single digits to end January, broken by a Jan. 30-Feb. 2 reprieve of daytime highs at or above 32 degrees. Then 16 straight days and nights below freezing followed.
February’s temperatures – which averaged 16.7 degrees as of Tuesday – are nearly 9 degrees below normal. That put the month on track to become the sixth coldest February in more than 140 years of recorded weather history.
But February is when schools go on winter break, and teachers Nick Schifano, Jessica Johnson, Sarah Petersen and their friend Tom Rutski took time Tuesday afternoon to check out the hills at Delaware Park.
The best part of winter for them?
“The first snowfall,” Johnson said.
“And the last,” added Petersen.
News Staff Reporter Barbara O’Brien contributed to this report. email: email@example.com