Medina Journal-Register — In anticipation of Disney’s latest animated feature “Frozen,” Western New Yorkers woke today expecting the first major winter storm of the season. A winter storm warning is in effect for the area through 1 a.m. Thursday.
“It definitely looks like it’s going to hit,” said Jim Mitchell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “It’s not lake effect snow but more of a widespread event. All of Western New York will see snow, not just certain areas.”
The storm, which is coming up from the southern states, will hit different areas in different ways, Mitchell explained. For example, areas in northwest Niagara County “may only get two to four or three to five inches” of snow. The total snowfall predictions increase as one moves east.
“The southeast corner of Niagara County could get up to the six to nine or ten inch range, and in Orleans County you’re looking at eight to ten inches in most parts, with maybe 12 inches in southeastern parts of the county,” Mitchell said.
With the storm not lake effect in nature, the snow will be more dense rather than fluffy and light. Mitchell added the accumulation will be more gradual than a lake effect event. The cold air off the lake will add moisture to the arriving storm and enhance the snowfall, though.
“That’s one good thing about this: we won’t see fast accumulation and highway departments and the department of transportation know what’s coming,” Mitchell noted. “They should be able to keep up with the snowfall. They have enough equipment.”
However, Mitchell stated the biggest issue with the storm is that the bulk of it will hit today, which is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. He urged caution to those who cannot avoid the roads.
“Be prepared,” he said. “Make sure you have a gas tank, you’ve got warm blankets, some non-perishable food and water, because all it takes is one flipped tractor trailer and you can be stuck in traffic for a long time.”
Travelers on east-west roads will have it more difficult than those going north-south, he added.
“The winds will be out of the north and gusty, close to 30 or 40 miles per hour,” Mitchell said. The wind will create quite a crossbreeze for those going east or west. Mitchell added that the gradual snowfall should still allow for decent visibility on the roads.
While a winter storm in Western New York is far from abnormal, starting the season with one is not necessarily common either. Mitchell also noted that it was tough to say when such a widespread storm passed through the area. The predicted snow accumulations, though, will be similar to the amount dumped on the area shortly before Christmas last year.
Along with the storm come colder temperatures. Temperatures will drop from the mid-30s to the upper 20s by Thursday, Mitchell said.