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Snow in New York: ‘Visibility will drop to near zero’ in parts of New York state hammered by lake-effect snow


Parts of New York state will be battered by a blizzard on Thursday that could close roads and paralyze cities for days.

“This event has the very real potential to produce crippling snowfall that can be measured in feet for the Buffalo and Watertown metro areas,” said the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Lake-effect snow totals can be measured in feet in parts of Western New York.

The ferocious lake-effect blizzard began Wednesday and is expected to cause treacherous roads at least through the end of the week.

“Visibility will drop to near zero at times and roads will be covered in snow, making travel dangerous to near impossible,” the National Weather Service said.

About 6 million people in five Great Lakes states — from Wisconsin to Ohio to New York — received snow warnings Thursday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

The storm had already dumped 17 inches of snow into Monroe Center in northeastern Ohio by morning. Erie, Pennsylvania, was covered by 11.5 inches and Springboro, about 35 miles southwest of Erie, had a notch of nearly 14 inches.

And the worst is yet to come.

The heaviest snow is expected to begin Thursday night and last through Friday, with more intense snowfalls over the weekend, the weather service said.

“This is going to be a very long lasting and large lake effect snow event east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock told CNN.

At least 100 inches of snow are expected to fall in Buffalo between Thursday evening and Sunday morning, forecasters said.

Areas downwind of Lakes Erie and Ontario could be hit by thunder and lightning from the snowfall.

In addition to Buffalo, several feet of snow is forecast for New York’s Watertown area and northwestern Pennsylvania, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow can fall at a rate of 3 inches per hour in some places, with snow piling up to 4 feet in some areas.

Parts of Indiana and northeastern Ohio have already picked up more than a foot of snow, Hennen said.

Those states are plagued by lake-effect snow — which happens when very cold, windy conditions form over a not-so-cold lake.

For example, a lake can be about 40 degrees while the air temperature can be well below freezing.

“That difference in temperature creates some instability and the water provides a source of moisture,” said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “When it comes over land, it deposits water vapor like snow.”

Intense lake effect snow can be deadly. In November 2014, a similar storm in western New York resulted in at least 13 deaths, “hundreds of major roof collapses and structural failures,” according to the National Weather Service.

Commercial traffic will be banned from 4 p.m. Thursday on about 210 miles of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) in the Rochester and Buffalo area to the Pennsylvania border, Governor Kathy Hochul’s office said.

Residents must take precautions — and look after each other, the state’s chief of emergency services urged.

“Don’t underestimate this storm,” said Jackie Bray, commissioner of the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

“We all need to monitor our neighbors, especially vulnerable neighbors, to help them prepare for winter weather in the forecast.”

Snow fell in Erie, Pennsylvania on Wednesday as the first lake-effect storm of this season hit the area.

New York’s governor plans to declare a state of emergency on Thursday, she said.

“My team and I are deploying emergency resources before the storm, staying in constant contact with local officials and keeping a sharp focus on the forecast,” Hochul said in a press release.

“New Yorkers should remain vigilant for the storm and avoid unnecessary travel during these perilous conditions.”

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