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A half foot of snow has blanketed Buffalo so far today and the heavy snow that’s part of a giant winter storm enveloping much of the Northeast will continue to coat our roadways through the evening commute.

The worst should be over by now, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell, but snow will continue through the evening.

“It’s going to come in waves,” Mitchell said. Later on tonight, we can expect some light, Lake Ontario-enhanced snow. “It will be light and fluffy,” he said, and there shouldn’t be too much of it.

The snow that started pounding our region at about 10 a.m. today has made for some miserable driving conditions.

“Snow-covered, slippery,” reported State Trooper Jeff McDonald this afternoon, who is assigned to the State Police’s Buffalo Thruway barracks. “People are sliding off all over. Anywhere we patrol, they are going off the road.”

A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the I-190 near Hamburg Street about 1:30 Wednesday, backing up traffic in the northbound lanes.

A second tractor-trailer jack-knifed near the same location but was able to correct itself.

The snowfall during the day was prompting cancellations of afternoon and evening events, including all after-school activities for the Buffalo School District. All adult classes were set to continue as planned.

Many suburban school districts across Erie County canceled their after-school activities as well.

With about six inches of snow falling between 9 a.m. and noon, Niagara County announced the closure of all of its government offices in a statement issued at 12:15 p.m. All non-essential county government personnel were sent home.

The county followed up at 1:10 p.m. with a travel advisory, urging no unnecessary travel until 10 p.m. Sheriff James R. Voutour said the matter will be re-evaluated at that time.

After a brief lull in the storm during the noon hour, snow resumed falling in Lockport at something approaching the earlier rate by 2 p.m.

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker followed suit by announcing the closure of City Hall as of 2 p.m., and Lockport schools announced they would dismiss students one hour early and cancel all after-school activities, including tonight’s Board of Education meeting.

Tonight’s Lockport Common Council meeting also was canceled, and the court system canceled all afternoon sessions of Lockport City Court, Niagara County Court, and State Supreme and Family Courts in the county.

However, Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith said that tonight’s Town Board meeting, set for 7:30 and including public hearings on $16.9 million worth of water and sewer projects, is still on.

“We think everybody’s overreacting,” Smith said shortly after 1:30. “I grew up in a time when you did this for two or three feet of snow. Our highway superintendent says we’re keeping up with it.”

He admitted the roads aren’t down to bare pavement, but Smith said they are passable.

The City of Niagara Falls issued a travel advisory – though not a ban – as did the City of Lockport and Niagara County. The county released all of its non-essential workers at noon.

“The brunt of the storm hit after people were already at work and after students were in school, so now the focus is on cleaning up as much as possible through the afternoon in order to ensure a safe trip home for all,” Mayor Paul A. Dyster said in a statement.

He urged anyone who was home to consider staying put. “That’s the most important thing you can do right now to help our hard-working street crews do their job: stay out of the way.”

At midday today weather officials said at Buffalo Niagara International Airport that visibility was down to a quarter of a mile. In the Niagara Falls area, it was down to an eighth of a mile.

Northeast winds are expected to be 10 to 15 mph today, but stronger winds, ranging from 30 to 35 mph, may occur by Lake Ontario.

Some lightning was reported east of Buffalo in Erie County late this morning and that could produce heavier rates of snowfall in some areas, said meteorologist Dan Kelly.

“When you get lightning with a snowstorm, it’s an indicator of a slightly enhanced area,” he said, much like a downpour during a summer rain storm.

The winter storm warning from the National Weather Service was set to expire at 10 p.m. tonight.

State troopers reported no major accidents on the Thruway so far but said visibility has been poor at times.

Temperatures were expected to peak at 24 today and get down to just 8 overnight tonight.

The morning commute was slow and slick after three inches of overnight snow. Police agencies throughout the region said roads this morning were passable and salters and plows had been out throughout the night, but motorists were advised to use caution.

Several flights at Buffalo Niagara International Airport have been canceled and many were delayed several hours today. Foul weather that’s affecting everywhere from Chicago to southern New England was to blame, airport officials said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency this morning for all counties of the state. Such a declaration gives the state more flexibility in getting state equipment into the hands of localities and, in this case, waives certain commercial trucking rules, such as weight regulations on bridges. That is needed, Cuomo said, to get salt into communities where road salt supplies have been depleted due to an increased number of storms this winter, especially downstate. Cuomo said the state will be releasing 130 truckloads from its road salt stockpile to assist areas facing shortages, which are primarily on Long Island.

“The shortage of salt is a complicating factor,” Cuomo said of today’s storm.

The state has shut down one major highway in the lower Hudson Valley – Interstate 84 – between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania border. Cuomo told reporters during a telephone conference call this morning that further road closures could be announced later today if the storm worsens.



email: lmichel@buffnews.com