Lake Effect storm spills several feet in New York; expected more

Michelle Kucalski digs out her car after an intense lake effect snowstorm hit the area November 18, 2022 in Hamburg, New York.

John Normile | Getty Images

A massive storm dumped several feet of snow in the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario areas, killing at least three people, forcing an NFL game to be postponed and causing a gridlock as tractor trailers pulled onto minor roads to close a portion of the interstate avoid 90 in western New York.

The lake-effect storm had produced more than 6 feet of snow in some areas as of Saturday morning. The Buffalo metro area was hit particularly hard, with some areas south of the city bearing the brunt. The front had begun moving north from Buffalo on Saturday, but forecasts called for more snow as Monday approached.

According to the National Weather Service, the suburb of Orchard Park, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, reported 77 inches (196 centimeters) early Saturday. About 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of town, the town of Natural Bridge, near Fort Drum Army Base, reported just under 6 feet.

The flooding forced the National Football League to move Sunday’s game between the Bills and the Cleveland Browns to Detroit.

The National Weather Service forecast partial sunshine and a break in snow in New York on Saturday, but not for long.

“Later tonight and into early next week, we expect another round of lake-effect snow for much of western New York,” Zack Taylor, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told The Associated Press. Taylor, based in College Park, Maryland, said this could produce up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow in areas near Lake Erie and 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow in areas near Lake Ontario.

Denis Marszalkowski digs out with a snow blower after a heavy lake effect snowstorm hit the area November 18, 2022 in Hamburg, New York.

John Normile | Getty Images

In the Buffalo area, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted that two people died “related to cardiac events associated with shoveling/snowblowing exertion.” A third person — a snowplow driver in the town of Hamlet, Indiana — was killed Friday when his plow skidded off the sidewalk and overturned, the Starke County Sheriff’s Department. Hamlet is approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Lake Michigan.

In other tweets, Poloncarz expressed frustration at reports of trucks getting stuck on minor roads when attempting to detour around I-90. A video posted online showed a line of trucks backing up on a road in Orchard Park.

The weather didn’t stop a Buffalo-area couple from tying the knot on Saturday, a year after their engagement. Robert Junge said he and fiancé Maria Szeglowski decided to get married in November because Buffalo had only had one major November storm eight years ago since 2000.

After the storm triggered a driving ban that forced their banquet hall to cancel, they turned around and decided to hold the ceremony anyway, postponing the reception to next weekend. About 100 of 180 expected guests would not make it to the ceremony, Junge said.

“We’re all trying to look at it positively,” he said. “It will definitely make for some nice pictures and videos.

“I know this sounds like a game but I’m so excited to marry my fiancee, I love her so much nothing would stop me,” he added. “I don’t need anyone to be sorry. We will get through this.”

The storm’s impact varied widely across the region due to the peculiarities of lake effect storms, which are caused by cold winds picking up moisture from warmer lakes and dumping snow in narrow bands. Heavy snow from Lake Erie hit some areas of Buffalo, while residents just a few miles away struggled with just inches.

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed about 70 National Guard members to help clear snow in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Buffalo has experienced dramatic lake-effect snowstorms, only a few worse than the one that struck in November 2014. This epic storm dumped 7 feet of snow over three days on some communities, collapsing roofs and trapping motorists in more than 100 vehicles on a lake stretch of the New York State Thruway.