November 17, 2022

Buffalo Could See 4-5 Feet Of Snow Through The Weekend, As One Does

Oh dear. 

A vigorous lake-effect snowstorm is about to get underway in western New York, where the National Weather Service expects 4-5 feet...feet...of snow to fall across the Buffalo metro area by Sunday.

This will be a lake-effect event for the ages, so long as "the ages" stop back in 2014, when a very similar setup resulted in 65 inches of snow falling south of Buffalo in a couple of days.

NWS Buffalo

We're witnessing a classic event that'll probably land in some meteorology instructor's PowerPoint slides one day.

Cold winds blowing across the Great Lakes behind a cold front are setting the stage for ripping bands of snow to develop across the eastern Lakes.

These southwesterly winds will align perfectly along the length of Lake Erie to instigate the development of a long, steady band of snow that'll train its fire on the Buffalo metro area. The band of snow will pick up in earnest overnight Thursday into Friday, continuing into the day Saturday for many areas.

The band will ultimately wobble a few miles to the left and a few miles to the right, but forecasters are confident that this will be a high-impact storm that'll smack Buffalo one good.

NWS Buffalo gives the city a 99% chance of seeing at least 18 inches of snow over the next couple of days, and the office's official forecast casually paints a bullseye of 48-60 inches of snow over the city.

NWS Buffalo

What's behind this? Much like thunderstorms on a warm day, lake-effect snow forms through convection. The lakes hold on to their heat really well even as the air turns bitterly cold, setting up a sharp temperature gradient between the lower levels and the upper levels.

The warm lakes heat up the air directly above them, allowing the air to rise and trigger snow showers. Winds organize the showers into bands. A scenario like the one we're seeing now—a great temperature difference combined with winds perfectly aligned with the length of Lake Erie—will lead to...well, the road-glaciating event we're about to witness.

Buckle up, western New York. This'll be one you talk about with the gusto of a shipwreck survivor when the south falls apart in two inches of snow in a few months.

[Top image created with WSV3]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.