Buffalo blizzard drops more than 5 feet of snow on western New York, storm expected to continue

NEW YORK — Residents in Buffalo and across western New York awoke on Saturday to several more feet of snow amid an unrelenting winter storm that has caused two deaths and paralyzed much of the area with road closures and flight cancellations.

Bands of heavy snow whipping off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario continued to batter the region, producing snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The intense snowfall, considered historic for the area, was expected to continue through the weekend with few moments of relief.

By Friday night, more than 5 feet of snow had fallen on suburban Orchard Park, the home of the Buffalo Bills, according to the National Weather Service. The large suburb of Hamburg south of Buffalo had recorded more than 4 feet, while areas north of Buffalo had received lighter snowfall.

The storm started Wednesday night with a mix of precipitation that quickly transformed into an all-out snowstorm by Thursday. The storm’s severity has varied due to the quirks of lake-effect storms, which are triggered by frigid winds picking up moisture from the warmer lakes.

As the snowfall intensified, two residents in Erie County died from cardiac complications related to shoveling and attempts to clear their property, said Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive.

“We send our deepest sympathies and remind all that this snow is very heavy and dangerous,” Poloncarz tweeted. “Please continue to avoid shoveling this very heavy, wet snow — and use caution and avoid overexertion if you must shovel today.”

Winter weather warnings remained in effect for all of the Great Lake states, spanning New York to Wisconsin.

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon and announced that the New York State Thruway would be closed to commercial traffic starting Thursday afternoon from Rochester to the Pennsylvania border. The storm, bringing with it whiteout conditions, has made travel and commuting nearly impossible.

Additional snow amounts of 8 to 12 inches or more were expected across the Buffalo and Watertown metro areas, according to the National Weather Service.