Lake-effect snow pummels New York, closes Thruway

Buffalo residents attempt to shovel more than three feet of snow that fell Tuesday.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Parts of New York measured the season’s first big snowfall in feet, rather than inches, on Tuesday as 3 feet of lake-effect snow blanketed the Buffalo area and forced the closure of a 132-mile stretch of the state Thruway.

The waist-high snow blown by strong winds stopped even pedestrians in their tracks and motorists abandoned vehicles where they got stuck. National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Ansuini said the storm was dumping 3 to 4 inches of snow per hour.

“There are some significant main arterials in the community that are basically parking lots,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who declared a state of emergency and issued driving bans for the southern section of Buffalo and more than a dozen suburbs.

The Thruway Authority said white-out conditions caused by wind gusts of more than 30 mph forced the closure of Interstate 90 in both directions from the Rochester area to Ripley, on the Pennsylvania border 60 miles southwest of Buffalo.

Brian Krzeminski watched the snow pile up outside the south Buffalo convenience store where he worked overnight and served free coffee to the motorists and pedestrians who came in to get out of the blinding snow.

“There are people that came out to get a few things. We had some people who came in just to get a 30-pack of beer, which is kind of odd,” he said. “We’ve had EMTs whose ambulance got stuck. I’m constantly seeing cars get stuck.”

In a region accustomed to highway-choking, mass school-closing snow storms, this one is being called one of the worst in recent memory. At one point, nearly half of the town of West Seneca’s plows were bogged down in heavy snow, officials told The Buffalo News. In neighboring Orchard Park, the highway superintendent called the rate of snowfall “unbelievable,” while next door in Hamburg even police cars were getting stuck in the deep snow.

The National Weather Service warned that the snow off the Great Lakes would continue at least through Wednesday, affecting also Interstate 81 between Syracuse and the Canadian border.

Lancaster, just east of Buffalo, reported 42 inches by 9 a.m., while just to the south, in Orchard Park, there was 36 inches. But typical of lake-effect snow, areas just a few miles away, including downtown and north Buffalo, had seen just a couple of inches.

State troopers were using all-terrain vehicles to deliver blankets and other emergency supplies to motorists stranded on the Thruway overnight, said state police Capt. Ed Kennedy. It wasn’t known yet how many people were stuck in their vehicles Tuesday.

“Other than wishing they weren’t stuck in traffic, they’re warm and safe in their vehicles,” he said.

The Tug Hill region on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, notorious for its yearly snow totals, was bracing for 2 to 3 feet of snow.

The National Weather Service said the Lake Michigan shoreline could get 6 to 16 inches of snow by Tuesday, while 4 to 18 inches was forecast along Lake Superior.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s