It couldn’t be coming at a worse time. A major winter storm moving northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico is forecast to hit Western New York and the Eastern Seaboard on one of the busiest travel days of the year – Thanksgiving eve Wednesday.
“Everybody’s going to get some,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell said Monday evening. “The complicated part is that how much you get depends on where you are.”
Locally, a winter weather warning was issued from this afternoon through Wednesday afternoon for areas from east-central Ohio through New York’s North Country, including almost all of Western New York, except for Allegany County.
Forecasters characterize it as a “synoptic” snow event, meaning it occurs when the winds associated with the snowfall do not pass over the Great Lakes. So lake-effect snow is not expected.
The snow is expected to come in two stages, an inch or two tonight and bigger amounts during the day Wednesday, and some places will get more than others.
Meteorologists think the heaviest snow will be on the western side of the storm system, which is expected to track from Chautauqua County through Wyoming County to the Rochester area. Eight to 14 inches of snow are forecast there.
For Northern Erie County and southern and eastern parts of Niagara County, snowfall could total 6 to 8 inches. Lewiston and Youngstown in the northwest corner of Niagara County could see as little as 2 to 4 inches.
Same with the eastern part of the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, Mitchell said. Farther north and west, there should none at all. On the American side, he added, it should be snow-free on the other side of Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the storm will begin with rain, sleet and freezing rain east of the Genesee Valley. In the Albany area, more than 2 inches of rain could fall before the cold front moving in behind the storm turns it to sleet and snow Wednesday night.
Even if it’s rain instead of snow, the Weather Service cautioned that early holiday travel would be disrupted by the storm. Some of the region’s busiest airports – New York, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Boston and Charlotte, N.C. – could see big delays.
The worst should be over, however, by the time dinner is served on Thanksgiving Day. Locally, temperatures should be in the mid 20s under cloudy skies with only a slight chance of snow showers in the Metro Buffalo area, more of a chance on the Southern Tier.
A high pressure system is supposed to arrive for the weekend, bringing an end to the snow, but not to the cold. Forecasts call for temperatures in the 20s on Friday and a high just above freezing on Saturday.
Snowfall total for the season should come up to normal levels during the next couple of days.
With a half-inch of snowfall overnight, the total for the month – and season – at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stands at 1.2 inches. Normal is 6.6 inches.
The storm already has taken its toll in the West and Texas, where it was blamed for at least 10 fatal accidents.
Nearly 300 American Airlines and American Eagle flights were canceled in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Monday due to the weather, spokeswoman Laura Masvidal said, mirroring disruptions at the air hub a day earlier.
The storm brought a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, southern Kansas and Texas on Monday. But as the storm continues east, there are fears of heavy rain along the busy Interstate 95 corridor and sleet, freezing rain and snow away from the coast and at higher elevations.
Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, said it will be “primarily a rain event” for the East Coast, with up to three inches of rain dousing travelers.
“The farther inland you get – especially as you get into that higher terrain – you are going to deal with frozen precipitation,” Kines said. Snow could fall in western Pennsylvania and the interior of New England. Up to 9 inches could blanket northern parts of West Virginia, where the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from this morning through Wednesday afternoon.
One good thing about the early onset of winter is that it has brought an early opening to the area’s skiing season.
Kissing Bridge in Colden will open Wednesday – a full month ahead of last year. It will have two trails and two lifts open, with additional slopes expected to open daily. Hours will be noon to 8 p.m.
Holiday Valley ski resort in Ellicottville will open Friday as its snowmaking system has been working overtime to put down a base of 10 to 25 inches, helped by 6 inches of natural snowfall since Saturday.
At least 11 trails will be open with five quad lifts in operation. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Peek ’n Peak in Clymer reported on its website that it plans to open Friday, with the first chair lift running at 9:30 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. email: danderson@buffnews. com and firstname.lastname@example.org