By the end of Thursday, only a small portion of the snow dumped on the region from an ongoing multiday lake-effect snowstorm affected downtown Buffalo and its northern suburbs.
It just happened to come at a really lousy time. Again.
Heavy snow, fueled by Lake Erie, worked its way north and began pummeling metro Buffalo by about 4 p.m., just as commuters prepared to head home.
The snow, which fell in some parts at a rate of 3 inches per hour, continued blitzing the area and briefly progressed northward to affect southern Niagara County as well as the Tonawandas, Amherst, Clarence and the eastern suburbs.
The snow quickly accumulated on area roadways and, with brisk winds, was blown around, substantially reducing visibility. That led to motorists getting home a lot later than usual.
Afternoon rush-hour traffic slowed to a crawl along the Thruway between Pembroke and Hamburg as well as heavily traversed roads such as Transit, Harlem and Union, Walden Avenue, Main Street, Seneca Street and others. It also inconvenienced excited concertgoers who were trying to make the 6 p.m. start of the annual Kissmas Bash in First Niagara Center.
“The wind just changed direction,” said Aaron Reynolds, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, who explained that the wintry blast wasn’t unexpected. Those areas were under a lake-effect snow warning when the snow arrived.
With roadways slick with snow, state troopers urged motorists to keep off the roads if possible. “If you don’t have to be out there, don’t be out there,” advised State Police Sgt. Ponell Lang.
By about 7 p.m., the snow band shifted south again, affecting an area from roughly Dunkirk, northeast along Erie County’s Lake Erie shoreline and continuing through the eastern suburbs into Genesee and Orleans counties.
Reynolds said Thursday night that the heaviest snow was expected to remain south of Buffalo into the evening and throughout the night.
As of 8 p.m., the National Weather Service measured 5.6 inches at its Buffalo Niagara International Airport weather station, Reynolds said. Most of that snow fell in a relatively short period of time.
There was about 7 inches measured in Alden and 6 inches in Depew as of about 6 p.m. Seven inches also fell near Akron, all in about two hours, according to a weather service spotter.
If the snowstorm that pounded the region Thursday was a flailing whip, it only bit the metro area and points northward briefly. Further south, it was a much different story. The snowfall was, in some cases, measured in feet.
The high snow mark was recorded at Colden, where almost 3 feet of snow fell as of Thursday morning – officially 34.2 inches. Wales, Perrysburg and near Boston each picked up 26 inches.
And more was on its way overnight – maybe up to an additional foot in the Southtowns communities of Hamburg, East Aurora and North Collins.
“It’s beautiful really,” said Ed Prowse, a Silver Creek resident, who poked his way up Route 5 to a Derby hardware store Thursday afternoon for supplies with 18 inches of snow atop his silver Ford Taurus. “We usually don’t get much snow, it falls in Forestville or Perrysburg.”
At the same Ace Hardware store in Derby, assistant store manager Chuck Privitera reported that business has been brisk.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” said Privitera. “Snow shovels, ice melt, shear pins and belts for snowblowers. But, we haven’t run out of anything.”
The snow prompted East Aurora schools to close at 11 a.m. Thursday.
As with other lake-effect storms, where the snow ends can depend on a slight shift in the wind.
“A few miles can make a big difference,” Reynolds said.
And, when the lake-effect event finally runs its course today, a “general snowfall” is forecast for the weekend with about 1 to 3 inches expected over the region Saturday and Saturday night, according to the Weather Service, which issued an advisory for the Niagara Frontier.
As snow totals climbed, temperatures fell.
Today’s expected high – 20 degrees – will be followed by a dip back into the teens tonight. The temperatures won’t get out of the 20s through at least Monday, according to the forecast, and overnight lows are expected to continue to stay in the upper teens.
News Staff Reporters Maki Becker, Barbara O’Brien and Janice Habuda contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.