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While snow buries much of the Buffalo area and other parts of WNY, Rochester sees little accumulation

National Weather Service

While the Buffalo area and other parts of Western NY are measuring snowfall from the recent lake effect snow event in feet, there’s little accumulation in the immediate Rochester area.

The frigid winds coming across Lake Erie over the last few days have dumped more than six feet of snow in Orchard Park, and very high amounts in other parts of Erie County. Areas south of the city of Buffalo got hit hardest at first, and National Weather Service Meteorologist Liz Jurkowski said those snow bands will shift north on Saturday, before drifting south again Saturday night.

Jurkowski said that the recent lake-effect event is among the biggest she has seen in recent years, putting it right up there with the so-called ‘Snowvember’ event that also dumped feet of snow in the Buffalo area in 2014.

“This would probably rank in the top 3 in snowfall amounts; the ‘Snowvember’ event was a 7-foot event as well as a Christmas event of 2001, so within my lifetime, I’m now seen 3 events of seven feet,” Jurkowski told WXXI News.

Areas closer to the Rochester metro saw a lot of snow, but not at those levels. Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties all saw several inches of snow or even higher amounts, according to Jurkowski.

“Genesee County we have a report out in Darien Center for 28.3 inches; Orleans will probably see a couple inches there. You might see up to a foot in the southwest corner of Orleans (Saturday) morning. And a few inches all the way out, probably into Western Monroe County.

 More than 2 feet of snow on a car at an apartment complex in East Aurora on 11/18/22
Buffalo Toronto Public Media
More than 2 feet of snow on a car at an apartment complex in East Aurora on 11/18/22

For the city of Rochester and nearby suburbs, little accumulation is expected. There may be some snow showers Sunday and Sunday night.

Schools were shuttered. Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Depew closed Thursday and Friday. Numerous flights in and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled.

The storm was blamed for two deaths, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, tweeting that they were "associated with cardiac events related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing."

"We send our deepest sympathies and remind all that this snow is very heavy and dangerous," he said.

By Friday afternoon, AAA tow truck drivers were having trouble reaching dozens of stranded drivers who defied travel bans and advisories, association spokeswoman Elizebeth Carey said.

"The AAA crews were trying to get to people that had called in saying they were broken down or stranded or had gone off the road in their vehicle. ... A lot of our tow truck drivers kept calling in saying that `police turned me away,'" she said. In some cases, tow trucks followed behind payloaders enlisted to clear the way. The AAA passed along other drivers' locations to police.

Even before the snow began falling, the NFL announced it would relocate the Buffalo Bills' Sunday home game against the Cleveland Browns from the team's stadium in Orchard Park to Detroit.

A day later the Bills tweeted photos of Highmark Stadium showing the playing field and its more than 60,000 seats virtually buried in snow, and forecasters warned of an additional foot or more by Sunday.

 A snowy Highmark Stadium, as the Bills traveled to Detroit over the weekend to face Cleveland since Orchard Park was buried by several feet of snow.
Buffalo Bills
A snowy Highmark Stadium, as the Bills traveled to Detroit over the weekend to face Cleveland since Orchard Park was buried by several feet of snow.

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Thursday for parts of western New York, including communities along the eastern ends of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The declaration covers 11 counties.

During a press conference Saturday afternoon in Hamburg, Hochul said that New York is submitting an emergency declaration request to the federal government to get FEMA support. “This is important for us to be able to receive reimbursements for the expenses of this storm. We’ve been in contact with FEMA and we feel hopeful, optimistic, that this will be granted because we brought in not just all the resources across the state, also private contractors and the county and we have to pay for," Hochul said.

Hochul also announced that she has deployed about 150 members of the National Guard to help with snow removal in some of the hardest-hit areas.

The Thruway is temporarily diverting all traffic off the Thruway between exit 53 (Buffalo (Downtown) – Canada – Niagara Falls – I-190) (I-190) and exit 59 (Dunkirk). The diversion will be lifted and it will be reopened to passenger vehicles as soon as conditions permit. The commercial vehicle travel ban remains in effect.

The Rochester Fire Department in conjunction with the Monroe County Special Operations Unit deployed a type 4 urban search and rescue team to Erie County.

The urban search and rescue team will assist with structural collapse rescue or any other technical rescue as needed for this state of emergency in Erie County.

City fire officials say the request for the team to be deployed came from the Department of Homeland Security and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

There was a ban on commercial traffic on the NYS Thruway from exit 46 in Rochester going west to the Pennsylvania state line since late Thursday afternoon. But that was eventually lifted as of Saturday night.

Numerous weather advisories remain in effect for parts of Western NY.

This story includes reporting by the Associated Press

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.