The squalls are moving again towards the Buffalo metro; Thruway reopens to all traffic

An “extreme” lake-effect storm that dumped 77 inches in Orchard Park has yet to complete its journey, but local forecasts suggest it will weaken slightly overnight Saturday.

The lake effect storm appears to be ending with a final squall on Sunday morning, with thunderstorm likely across much of Erie County, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

The band of snow that fell 2 to 3 inches per hour during the most severe part of the storm is moving south across Niagara County this evening and will swing rapidly through the Buffalo area and the Southtowns, according to NWS. Between 3 and 6 inches are expected for the Buffalo area and the Southtowns overnight.

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Those totals are less than the 10 to 12 inches the city of Buffalo expected to fall from Saturday night through Sunday. Areas on the southern edge of Erie County, in cities like Springville and Gowanda, could receive another foot or more Saturday night through Sunday night, according to NWS forecasts.

Winds between 15 and 20 mph across the region and gusts exceeding 40 mph in some locations will continue to affect visibility, according to the NWS forecast.

(National Weather Service)

Sunny skies and a general reprieve from heavy snowfall are expected Sunday for Buffalo, although a final shot is expected for Sunday evening. According to the National Weather Service, little to no accumulation is expected during the day in Niagara County and much of Erie County.

Orchard Park continues to dig from a local high of 77 inches, while Hamburg’s 73.7 and Blasdell’s 65 followed. Much of central and southern Erie County remains in a travel ban Saturday night as county, state and even National Guard crews continue the snow removal process.

The city of Buffalo lifted its travel ban at 2 p.m. Saturday, returning to notice except in South Buffalo, where the travel ban is still in effect. Travel bans also remain in place in the cities of Evans, Hamburg and Orchard Park.

The rest of Erie County continues under a travel advisory. Motorists are advised to exercise caution. County Executive Mark Poloncarz during his 9 p.m. storm briefing said he hopes all streets and highways will reopen within 24 hours.

The Thruway Authority announced shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday that the Mainline Thruway had reopened to all traffic from Rochester to the Pennsylvania State Line, but warned that some exits could be blocked due to snow removal.

Exit 54 (route 400) and exit 55 (route 219) remain closed to all traffic. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from exiting at Exit 56 (Milestrip Road/Route 179) and Exit 57 (Camp Road/Route 75). NITTEC reported at 8:30 p.m. that Route 400 is closed from the Thruway to Olean Road and Route 219 is closed from the Thruway to Peters Road outside of Springville.

Here are the snow totals updated by the National Weather Service.

Here’s how the final effort of the storm should play out:

As expected, lake effect strengthened earlier in the evening on Grand Island and Niagara County heading south through the Buffalo metro area between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Although the heavy snowfall is expected to last about two hours over a given area, it will intensify to 1 inch to 3 inches of snow per hour, the National Weather Service said. Accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected.

“It will travel south through the Buffalo Metro southbound and arrive in Chautauqua County early Sunday morning,” Jurkowski said.

The snow band will settle over southern Erie County and west of the southern portion of the band overnight and will continue to snow throughout the day. New accumulations could range from 6 to 18 inches, with the greatest amounts on higher ground. There will also be breezes, with gusts of up to 40 mph, pushing snow into Allegany County.

“It’s going to blow some of that snow off, even if you’re not in the group,” Jurkowski said.

The Buffalo area is expected to see little accumulation during the day, but could see a final blow of snow Sunday night as the winds shift again bringing another 1-3 inches. Temperatures on Sunday will be in the mid to high 20s.

The arrival of warmer air will end the lake effect and melt all that snow. There is a chance of rain showers and snow showers in the afternoon. It will be partly sunny and very windy, with a maximum in the upper 30s and gusts of up to 80 km/h.

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