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Great Lakes communities to be further buried by deadly lake-effect snow into Thursday night

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
January 31, 2019, 11:59:46 PM EST

The intense lake-effect snow machine that has buried communities under feet of snow and created extremely difficult travel will persist into Thursday night.

The harshest air yet this winter caused snow showers and squalls to stream off the Great Lakes around the middle of the week.

At least three fatalities have been reported in Erie County, New York, during the storm, according to officials.

western ny ap

A man is bundled up against bitter wind and blowing snow as he operates a snowblower, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Buffalo, New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

Buffalo, New York, was hit hard by a persistent lake-effect band on Wednesday, with visibility reduced to one-quarter mile or less for nearly eight consecutive hours at the international airport. Visibility was as low as one-sixteenth of a mile at times.

Most arrival and departure flights from Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled or delayed, according to The Buffalo News.

The airport has received more than 20 inches of snow since Tuesday. The 13.6 inches that fell alone on Wednesday set a new daily snowfall record.

Multi-vehicle accidents shut down portions of Interstate 190 and the New York State Thruway on Wednesday. The City of Buffalo issued a travel ban on Wednesday night.

Additional disruptions to travel and daily routines are anticipated into Thursday night downwind of Lake Ontario. Several inches can fall within one hour.

By the time the snow winds down early Friday, the region can be buried by 2-4 feet of snow with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 6 feet.

Lake effect Jan 31

Download the AccuWeather app to see just how much more snow will fall in your area.

“Whiteouts, as well as blowing and drifting snow resulting from gusty winds, threaten to force road closures and make travel nearly impossible and extremely dangerous at times,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott. This includes stretches of interstates 81 and 90.

thursday evening snow reports

The highest snowfall reports across New York as of Thursday evening.

Road closures are again possible due to poor driving conditions.

Motorists are urged to slow down in the heavy snow bands or pull over on the shoulder with emergency flashers on until visibility has improved.

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“With extreme cold and biting winds accompanying the snow, a dangerous and life-threatening situation can develop quickly in the cases of a power outage or becoming stranded outdoors in the snow,” Elliott said.

“Frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes when temperatures dip to 10 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, and anybody heading outdoors to shovel the snow should make sure to wear plenty of layers and take frequent breaks,” he added.

Motorists downwind of the other Great Lakes should also remain vigilant for poor travel until the lake-effect snow showers wind down through Thursday night.

The lake-effect event should come to an end on Friday as the persistent winds off the Great Lakes weaken and shift direction.

NE Friday Jan 31

As the lake-effect shuts off, a separate area of snow will sweep across the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic at the end of the week.

Those tired of the snow and cold will be delighted by the news of milder weather returning late this weekend into early next week.

This week’s episode of Everything Under the Sun covers two topics. First, host Regina Miller talks to Punxsutawney Phil's handler, John Griffiths for a fun look at the history and tradition of Groundhog Day. Then, Regina discusses the Polar Vortex with AccuWeather's long range team. What is it, and what impact will it have on the length of the winter cold? Tune in to find out!

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