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A bad warning just got worse.

A wicked winter storm that could deliver as much as 18 inches of snow is expected to hit us starting about 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

“With this winter storm warning, we are trying to get the word out so people need to be prepared,” said meteorologist Shawn Smith of the National Weather Service station in Cheektowaga.

“The last time we had a March storm like this was in 2008,” he added. “Right now, the storm is getting its act together in the central plains and will be moving our way throughout the day.”

Between 14 and 18 inches of is expected to fall, creating difficult driving conditions for both the morning and evening commutes Wednesday. The worst commute should be evening, however, as winds are expected to pick up and eight to 10 inches of snow will fall during the day, with as much as 2 inches per hour.

“So it will be pretty messy with winds of 25 to 35 mph, and near whiteout conditions,” Smith said.

Temperature today may hit 50 degrees in some areas of Western New York, and rain is expected to start falling at 8 p.m. tonight. But as the temperature drops, that will turn to sleet and a mixture of snow. By 3 a.m., give or take an hour, big wet snowflakes will be falling.

An additional six inches could fall Wednesday night, with the storm warning extending through 2 a.m. Thursday.

As for the expected 50 degrees today, don’t expect that in downtown Buffalo or areas near the lake.

The large ice fields on Lake Erie will only permit temperatures to rise into the low 40s, Smith said. And though the snow will gradually taper off but winter will still be very much with us for a while longer Smith said.

“We’re getting a blast of cold air, and temperatures are not expected to rise above the teens" on Thursday, Smith said,

March storms

A snapshot of some memorable snowfalls

• March 17, 1936 – 19 inches of snow falls on St. Patrick’s Day.

• March 2-3, 1976 – Area ice storm causes $80 million damage.

• March 13-14, 1993 – Blizzard of ’93 drops 17.5 inches of snow.

• March 16, 2004 – The 14.3 inches of snow is still a record for that day in March.

• March 7-8, 2008 – Two-day snowfall total of 21.3 inches.

• March 27, 2011 – Spring brings 6.8 inches of snow.

Source: National Weather Service

email: mbecker@buffnews.com