Cold air sweeping across the Great Lakes from Canada has flipped the switch on for the lake-effect snow machine from Michigan and northern Indiana to northeastern Ohio into western Pennsylvania, western New York and the Appalachians into Friday.
The isolated areas of heavy snow has already caused downed trees, power outages, accidents and closed schools in some communities. There have been some reports of thunder and lightning with the snow.
While the cities of Cleveland, Ohio, Erie, Pa., and Buffalo, N.Y., will have only a few wet snowflakes mixing in from time to time, with mostly rain shower, favored inland snowbelt regions such as Bradford, Pa., and New York state's Tug Hill Plateau will have a moderate to heavy accumulation of wet snow.
In fact, parts of the Tug Hill just east of Lake Ontario could receive up to a foot of snow Thursday into Friday.
Enough snow can fall on these locations and others inland of the lake shore to weigh down trees and cause limbs and power lines to come down. The snow was not only accumulating on grassy and elevated surfaces. During the early morning hours, road surface temperatures cooled enough to allow for slushy and slippery conditions in some areas.
A potentially disruptive 1-3 inches of snowfall is expected in areas such as Jamestown, N.Y., Kalamazoo, Mich., and Du Bois, Pa.. A few locations in western Pennsylvania, western and northern Michigan, western New York and northeastern Ohio can pick up as much as 6 inches of wet snow.
Near Cover, Mich., and Meadville, Pa., 3 inches of snow fell Thursday morning with 5 inches falling near Pierpont, Ohio.
Some of the snow that fell Wednesday night will melt during the day Thursday, but more snow may fall and accumulate Thursday night.
According to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "While most of the I-95 corridor will not see any flakes, its a good time for everyone to be thinking about where they left their ice scraper last winter. Frost can form on windshields as temperatures dip below freezing."
Folks living or working in the mountains may have to sweep some snow off their vehicles first thing in the morning.
Motorists traveling I-80 or the Pennsylvania Turnpike through the higher terrain of central and western Pennsylvania should prepare for rapidly changing weather conditions.
Rain showers will change to snow in higher elevations, and can lead to a sudden drop in visibility and even a quick, slushy coating of snow over some of the ridges.
The same can be said about I-86 in southwestern New York and I-68 in Maryland and West Virginia, where 1-3 inches of snow will also impact the roads in the highest terrain.
A limiting factor that will prevent this from being a more widespread, heavy snow event is warm water temperatures. Water temperatures in lakes Erie and Ontario are running a few degrees above where they should be for this time of year.
As of Oct. 22, the Lake Erie water temperature observed at Buffalo was a mild 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
This reading is the second highest value since 1927, when record keeping began, though the temperature has been in the 60s eleven times since then for this date.
The warm water temperatures will act to moderate the cold air mass passing over the lakes, leading to less snow overall and just plain rain, possibly mixing with snow, right at the lakefronts.
The lake-effect rain and snow squalls will gradually come to by Friday morning in most areas as the winds off the lakes lighten, and the air temperature warms.
No snow will reach the I-95 corridor of New England and the mid-Atlantic, but brisk winds and November-like cold air will.
Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed to the content of the story.
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