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Bands of very heavy lake-effect snow will continue much of this week and could break a 24-hour United States snowfall record Tuesday night.
The coldest air of the season so far pouring across the Great Lakes will continue to trigger the lake-effect.
The snow will be blinding in some areas, falling at the rate of 3-5 inches per hour, and can be accompanied by gusty winds, thunder and lightning.
Travel will be impossible for a time in the heaviest bands of snow.
The bands of heavy snow will continue into early Wednesday, before diminishing somewhat. Lake-effect snow will then re-energize on Thursday after a weak storm system with general light snow swings through at midweek.
The intense bands of lake-effect snow and squalls have the potential to shut down travel not only in the Interstate-90 corridor in western New York state, but also along the same highway in northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio, I-81 in northern upstate New York and the I-196 corridor in western lower Michigan.
Heavy snow had begun to cause road closures south of Buffalo, New York, as early as Monday night, including portions of US 219 and NY 400. Several feet of snow left motorists stranded on the New York Thruway south of Buffalo as a band of intense snow, like a giant snow gun from a ski resort, lingered in the area on Tuesday. Plows were stuck in at least one community.
As of the midday hours on Tuesday, an unofficial snowfall measurement of 60 inches has been recorded in the past 24 hours in Lackawanna, New York, just south of Buffalo. However, snowfall of 4 feet or more has been observed in some of the south towns. Depending on the investigation of snowfall measurement activities, and if the intense snow continues through the evening Tuesday, there is a chance the 24-hour United States snowfall record may fall. That official record belongs to Silver Lake, Colorado, with 76 inches, spanning April 14-15, 1921. A report of snowfall of 77 inches in 24 hours at Montague, New York, was thrown out by officials from January 1997.
A distance of only a few miles can make the difference between whiteout conditions and manageable flurries.
A relatively small amount of snow has fallen on much of the city of Buffalo with some areas receiving an inch or less as of Tuesday afternoon. Heavy snow is likely to shift into the city on one or more occasions through Thursday.
More than a foot of snow will fall in the shifting bands of intense lake effect. Where these bands persist, 5 feet or more of snow will fall this week.
According to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "People traveling from Cleveland to Boston may want to take a more southern route such as I-80 to I-95, as it will be better to have a longer trip rather than to risk getting stranded by taking a more direct route along lakes Erie and Ontario."
Motorists should exercise caution when traveling over the high ground in western Pennsylvania. While the snow will be less intense in this area, there can be slippery travel and a sudden reduction in visibility.
The weather may dictate frequent shoveling and plowing operations to avoid travel difficulties later. Plunging temperatures, in some cases to the single digits and teens, will cause wet and slushy areas to freeze.
In addition to bringing record cold to the South, the air will become cold enough with gusty winds to raise the risk for frostbite and hypothermia for those not properly dressed in the Midwest and Northeast.
If you must travel from the Upper Midwest to areas downwind of the lower Great Lakes, make sure you have warm blankets and clothing, drinking water and extra food in case you get stuck.
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