A historic lake-effect snow event will blanket swathes of the country in white over the weekend, with up to five feet of snow possible in Buffalo, New York.
The event, originating from the Great Lakes stretching from the Midwest to parts of the Northeast, has already seen gusts with some areas in western Michigan, northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania garnering up to 10 inches.
The Buffalo, New York metropolitan area is in the thick of the event, with heavy snow expected to hit the area Thursday night and continue for up to 48 hours, if not longer.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for 11 counties on Thursday, saying the state and the Buffalo area are “prepared” for the brunt of the “life-threatening” storm. She said the state Department of Transportation, National Guard and snow plows are all standing by.
He urged locals to stay off the roads as visibility “will be close to zero”, said schools will be closed and locals are encouraged to work remotely and stay home if possible.
Lake-effect snow occurs when Arctic air passes over the relatively warmer water of the Great Lakes each fall. These snowfalls can be intense but are often localized.
Climate change has had an impact on such events. As the planet has warmed due to the increase in greenhouse gases, the lakes have also warmed, meaning there is more evaporation in the atmosphere during the winter, which has led to an increase in lake-effect snow.
However, this trend is not expected to last in the long term. Rather, by the end of the 21st century, there is projected to be a shortened snow season due to the lake effect, and instead of peaking in fall and early winter, it will be delayed later, from January to March .
Snow rates in this week’s event could increase one to three inches per hour starting Thursday evening through Friday accompanied by thunders of snow. Lake effect snow will continue for leeward areas of the lakes through Sunday.
The Buffalo metro area could pick up four to five feet of snow. Meanwhile, one to three feet of snow is possible for places like Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The National Weather Service described the snow event as “crippling” with forecast snow rates of more than two inches per hour, “making travel nearly impossible.”
Temperatures are also expected to drop in the US as an Arctic blast is expected to bring the coldest air of the season.
Much of the country will feel below average on Thursday, all weekend long.
The cold Arctic airmass will lead to the first freeze for some major metropolitan areas like Atlanta and Washington DC and the first dangerously cold wind chills of the season for places like Chicago and New York.
Minneapolis will see a high of 27 degrees Thursday, Chicago a high of 33 degrees and New York and Washington DC a high of 46 degrees.