Historic Snowstorm Buries Western New York

Icy weather slammed into all 50 states of the United States on Tuesday, causing temperatures to prematurely hit freezing or below. In particular, Buffalo, New York, a city that’s normally accustomed to winter’s harsh effects, was hit with a lake-effect storm that left the area overwhelmed and submerged in six feet of snow.

“This storm is basically a knife that went right through the heart of Erie County,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “I can’t remember and I don’t think anyone else can remember this much snow falling in this short a period.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called out 150 members of the National Guard to help dig people out of stranded cars, trucks, and buses. A Niagara University women’s basketball team spent a day trapped inside their bus; some motorists had had been trapped for nearly 24 hours due to a delay caused by two tractor-trailers colliding as they were being moved.

The death toll has risen to five, according to Yahoo. One of the storm-related deaths was a vehicle accident, said Peter Anderson, a spokesman for the county executive, while three others were cardiac arrests as a result of shoveling.

Buffalo residents might not have seen the end of it though. CNN reports there’s more snow coming – an immense 90 inches more, making it altogether the equivalent of a year’s worth of snow in just three days.

Parts in the midwest, northeast, and southeast are also expected to brace for record lows in the high teens and low 20s.

So, what’s causing the extreme situation in so many parts of the country? The recent lake-effect snows come as a result of arctic air blowing over the warm Great Lakes waters.

“The steam from the lake … (is) still much warmer than the air,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “The air is in the teens and the water in the 40s. That steam comes up and wants to rise. That rise … creates a thunderstorm but it’s so cold it doesn’t rain. It just snows.”

“This is a very, very serious situation,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told reporters. “This is a very serious storm … It’s probably heavier than anything that we have seen in over 40 years, so it’s going to take some time to dig out.”