Hundreds of people spent the night stranded by a snowstorm 1:20
(WABNEWS) — A historic snowstorm is hitting western New York state this Saturday, with more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow in some places, road closures, driving bans and flight cancellations in the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday thanks.
Extreme snowfall “will produce near-zero visibility, very difficult or impossible travel, damage to infrastructure, and may paralyze the hardest-hit communities,” the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday morning.RELATED
Snowfall of more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) has been recorded in two locations, according to the National Weather Service. At Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, snow was 77.0 inches (1.95 meters) in the past 48 hours, and Natural Bridge, just east of Watertown, was 72.3 inches ( 1.8 meters), historical figures for the area.
Amid intensifying snowfall, two county residents died of heart complications related to shoveling snow and their attempts to clear land, the county said. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
“We send our deepest condolences and remind everyone that this snow is very heavy and dangerous,” poloncarz said. “Avoid shoveling very heavy, wet snow, and be careful and avoid overexerting yourself.”
New York under alert for a powerful snowstorm 3:41
Winter weather watches were still in effect for more than 6 million people in six Great Lakes states this Saturday morning: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Forecasters and officials have warned about the life-threatening nature of this blizzard, which is historic even for the Buffalo region, where heavy snowfall is the norm during the winter months. The heavy snowfall is expected to continue through the weekend with small periods of relief.
Areas northeast of Lake Ontario — from central Jefferson County to northern Lewis County — saw heavy snowfall Friday night, when the snowfall rate was up to 3 inches (more than 7 centimeters) per hour. , according to him weather service in buffalo. Locations between Watertown and Harrisville were also experiencing treacherous weather conditions.
A state of emergency remains in effect, and Dan Neaverth Jr., Erie County Homeland Security Commissioner, said he hoped the travel restrictions would stay in place.
“It’s Saturday. There is absolutely no reason to go out today,” he advised.
Dozens of flights arriving and leaving the Buffalo Niagara International Airport they were canceled as storm conditions worsened, according to the airport’s website.
This month is already Buffalo’s third snowiest November thanks to this storm, according to the local weather service.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told WABNEWS on Saturday that while his city is used to heavy snowfall, this is “a lot more than we usually get.”
He said the city could return to “some sense of normalcy” on Monday or Tuesday, assuming the worst of the storm occurs on Sunday.
“This has been a very unpredictable storm with bands of snow moving back and forth, north to south,” Brown said. “The snow has fallen very fast, very wet, very heavy.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Saturday that she is from Hamburg, just south of Buffalo.
“But even with that history, in that context, this is a storm for the record books,” he told WABNEWS. “It’s the most snow that fell in a 24-hour period probably in state history. Soon we will have the real numbers.”
County official asks not to ignore travel bans
The colossal storm has battered the region for days, prompting state and local officials to issue states of emergency to bolster emergency services. But with a storm this big, it only takes one or two vehicles to slow cleanup operations, Poloncarz said.
“A reminder to all employers: If your business is located in an area where a driving ban is in effect or your employees are currently in an area where a driving ban is in effect, it is illegal to force them to work,”Poloncarz said online.
The blizzard, which came with a forecast for the Buffalo region not seen in more than 20 years, has made travel impossible for many drivers, despite authorities’ emphasis on staying off the roads.
“I can say that our deputies have been absolutely overwhelmed with calls about disabled motor vehicles and stranded motorists,” Erie County Deputy Sheriff William J. Cooley said during a press conference Friday night. “We ask residents to please obey the travel ban; otherwise they become part of the problem when they are on the streets.”
Erie County issued a combination of travel bans and travel advisories on fridayincluding a travel ban for the southern part of Buffalo.
In addition, more than 300 citations have been issued to drivers who violated the travel ban, Poloncarz said late Friday.
“Please don’t be the cause of an ambulance not being able to get to the hospital,” he said. “There are many vehicles that not only get stuck, but are abandoned by their owners.”
The snow has been falling for an extended period of time at a rapid rate, making it difficult for crews to respond.
“In some cases, we’re going to be well over 5 feet of snow (1.5 meters) and that’s in a 21-hour period,” said Bill Geary, county public works commissioner. “It’s a remarkable amount of time.”
WABNEWS meteorologists Taylor Ward and WABNEWS’s Haley Brink and Jay Croft, Rob Frehse, Andy Rose, Steve Almasy and Nicole Grether contributed to this report.