(Buffalo, NY) Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz declared a state of emergency for the county on Wednesday afternoon.
Later in the day, a state of emergency was also issued for the City of Buffalo.
Along with this, a number of travel bans were issued, mostly in the southern part of Erie County and all of Genesee County.
This is no ordinary blizzard that’s blasting Buffalo and the Southtowns.
Not only is the lake-effect fueled storm dropping snow at a rate of 1 or 2 inches per hour, powerful winds are creating whiteout conditions.
Then there’s the deep, bone-chilling, even life-threatening cold.
Weather forecasters and public officials alike spent much of the day pleading with the public to take this storm seriously.
Erie County declared a state of emergency for the county and issued travel bans in several towns and villages in the southern and eastern parts of the county.
“A State of Emergency exists for all of Erie County due to a Blizzard,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Visibility in the worst locations is less than 20 feet. Major problem is w/tractor trailer jack-knifes on roads, including Routes 20, 75, 62 and Transit Road.”
Route 5, including the Skyway, was closed from Ridge Road to Interstate-190. Transit Road was shut down between Milestrip Road and 20A because of an accident. The county pulled snow plows off the roads in parts of Aurora and West Falls because of the deteriorating conditions.
It may only get worse, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Zaff.
The reason was two bands of lake-effect snow coming off Lake Erie: one over metro Buffalo and the other, a bigger, more potent one, over the Southtowns extending from the Pennsylvania line, across the Boston Hills and into the far northwest corner of Wyoming County. The bands are converging over Genesee County where they’re causing whiteout conditions.
Lake-effect storms have a tendency to hit “peak intensity” during the evening hours, Zaff said.
“You’ll see some increased intensity,” he said. “But it’s already awful so you’re not going to be able to detect any difference.”
At the same time, the bitter cold is getting worse.
“It’s going to continue to drop below zero,” Zaff said.
He recommended staying off the roads until at least the blizzard warning expires at 1 a.m.
“We don’t recommend travel,” he said.
As for folks headed home from downtown this afternoon?
“We’re kind of recommending not commuting,” Zaff said.
The storm officially was declared a blizzard just after noon by the National Weather Service. Kirk Apffel, a meteorologist, said a blizzard warning was in effect for Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties through 1 a.m. Thursday.