Accidents close interstates as 1st heavy episode of lake-effect snow affects the Great Lakes

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
November 10, 2018, 9:38:02 AM EST

Stretches of interstates closed early on Saturday morning as accidents ensued amid the first widespread and heavy lake-effect snow event of the season downwind of the Great Lakes.

Cold air will plunge southeastward during this weekend.

As that cold air passes over the warm waters of the Great Lakes, clouds will build and form streets of snow showers, known as lake-effect snow.

NE regional 11.10 AM

Under the right conditions, these snow showers can extend 100 miles or more downwind of the Great Lakes. Where these bands of snow persist, a heavy amount of snow can fall.

On Saturday morning, portions of interstates 80 and 99 in western and central Pennsylvania were closed as intense snow squalls caused drastic reductions in visibility and slick travel. Officials also closed a lengthy stretch of Interstate 90 from western New York to western Pennsylvania.

NY web cam Nov 10

An intense band of lake-effect snow reduced visibility and covered Interstate 90 in western New York on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Image/New York Thruway)

People living in or traveling through the Great Lakes region should make sure their vehicle is set for wintry driving conditions.

Motorists should continue to use caution on highways and interstates in Michigan, northern Ohio, western and central Pennsylvania, upstate New York and West Virginia.

"One of the most intense bands of lake-effect snow is falling downwind of Lake Erie, south of Buffalo, New York, and north of Erie, Pennsylvania," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

"Visibility dropped down to zero at Dunkirk, New York, with persistent thundersnow reported."

Even where bands of snow only briefly shift through some communities and stretches of highways, that snow can bring a dangerous, sudden drop in visibility and cause roads to become slippery in a matter of minutes.

"Football fans headed to State College, Pennsylvania, to watch Penn State take on Wisconsin should watch for slick conditions," according to Pydynowski.

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"As far as accumulations are concerned, parts of northern Michigan and areas of New York state from north of Syracuse to south of Watertown, known as the Tug Hill Plateau region, have a good chance at picking up close to a foot of snow," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Wimer.

Similar amounts are expected south of Buffalo.

Lake-effect snow map Nov 10

Download the free AccuWeather app to see if and how much snow is forecast to fall for your area.

Lake-effect snow is forecast to shut off from west to east as the weekend progresses.

The snow is likely to diminish Saturday afternoon and evening from Indiana to northern Michigan, then later Saturday night and Sunday morning farther to the east.

However, a clearing sky may allow temperatures to plunge. Some surfaces that were made wet by lake-effect snow and do not have a chance to dry off are likely to freeze at night as the coldest air of the season so far takes hold.

Motorists should assume that any wet patches are indeed icy Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Another blast of cold air and lake effect is poised to follow a storm with rain and snow early next week.

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