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Epic November Arctic Blast Brings Record Cold, 4 Feet of Snow to Buffalo

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:00 PM GMT on November 18, 2014

A wicked cold blast of January-like Arctic air is smashing records as it pours southwards over the eastern two-thirds of the United States, with temperatures 15 - 35°F below average common on Tuesday morning across much of the country. Freezing temperatures pushed all the south into the Florida Panhandle, where Pensacola hit 28°F. The cold air flowing over the unfrozen waters of the Great Lakes has unleashed an epic lake effect snow storm in the lees of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where the west-southwesterly winds of the storm have aligned with the long axis of these lakes, allowing the air to pick up large amounts of moisture.

Figure 1. Lake effect snow storm over Buffalo, New York at 7:53 AM EST November 18, 2014. Image credit: Mark T. Branden via Twitter.

Figure 2. Radar image of lake effect snows affecting all five Great Lake at 9:30 am EST November 18, 2014. Image taken from our wundermap.

Hardest hit: Buffalo, New York
A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for Buffalo, New York, where areas just south and east of the city had received over three feet of snow by Tuesday morning. As of 10:15 am EST Tuesday, the Buffalo suburb of Lancaster on the city's east side had received an amazing four feet of snow in 24 hours, with snowfall rates of 4" per hour and occasional rumbles of thunder. With the band of heavy lake effect snow responsible not expected to move much through Tuesday night, the NWS is forecasting that Lancaster will receive a total of nearly six feet of snow before the winds shift by Wednesday morning. A state of emergency has been declared in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo. All travel except for emergency vehicles is banned, and a 13-mile section of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) was closed from the east side of Buffalo southward. To avoid traffic backups, a 37-mile stretch of the Niagara Thruway (I-90) southbound from Niagara Falls to the I-90 interchange was also shut down on Tuesday morning.

Figure 3. Open your door…and see winter! Those are cars out there under those giant snow humps. Image taken from the Park Lane Apartments in Buffalo, New York, on November 18, 2014. Image credit: Ben Oship, via Instagram.

Heavy snows are also piling up in the lee of Lake Ontario near Watertown, New York, where over three feet of snow is expected. Lesser snow amounts are expected in the lees of the other Great Lakes, where the wind will not be blowing over such long stretches of open water. In the lee of Lake Michigan, up to 15" had fallen in northern Lower Michigan at Boyne Falls by Tuesday morning.

Figure 4. Departure of temperature from average at 2 meters (6.6') as diagnosed by the GFS model at 00 UTC November 18, 2014. A sharp kink in the jet stream (Figure 4) allowed cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic over the Eastern two-thirds of the United States. Compensating warm air flowed northwards into the Arctic beneath a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

Figure 5. Winds at a height where the pressure is 250 mb show the axis of the jet stream, seen here at 00 UTC November 18, 2014. A strong trough of low pressure was present over the Central U.S., and an unusually strong ridge of high pressure was along the U.S. West Coast. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

An extreme jet stream pattern responsible
The intense cold blast is being triggered by an unusually extreme jet stream pattern, featuring a sharp ridge of high pressure along the U.S. West Coast and a deep trough of low pressure diving to the south over the Central United States. This configuration allows cold air to spill out of the Arctic behind the trough into the Central U.S., and be replaced by anomalously warm air flowing northwards along the West Coast of the U.S. deep into the Arctic. This extreme jet stream pattern is due, in part, to the influence of Super Typhoon Nuri, which caused a ripple effect on the jet stream after the typhoon became one of the most powerful extratropical storms ever recorded in the waters to the west of Alaska ten days ago. The extreme jet stream pattern will moderate by Friday, with near-normal temperatures expected across most of the U.S. by Sunday.

Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has a post on the history of lake effect snowstorms, Lake Effect Snow Totals and Historical Perspective. Some U.S.-record point snowfalls from the Great Lakes region from lake effect storms include:

12.0” in 1 hour at Copenhagen, New York on Dec. 2, 1966
17.5” in 2 hours at Oswego, New York on Jan. 26, 1972
22.0” in 3 hours at Valparaiso, Indiana on Dec. 18, 1981
51.0” in 16 hours at Benetts Bridge, New York on Jan. 17-18, 1959
77.0” in 24 hours reported in Montague Township on the Tug Hill Plateau of New York on Jan. 11-12, 1997

Jeff Masters
First snow
First snow
3 feet of snow
3 feet of snow

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

finally a reason given why the cfsv2 model is out of whack.....

Michael Ventrice ‏@MJVentrice Nov 15
Wohh nelly! CFSv2 bringing El Nino back into a moderate to high category. Probably biased to downwelling KW surfacing

Quoting 54. Some1Has2BtheRookie:

We knew it was not going to stay hidden in the depths forever. We all knew that the stored heat energy in the oceans had to surface sometime. We just were not certain as to when it would surface. Should this article prove to be correct, then we have our answer as to how long the oceans would sequester the heat energy. Perhaps this explains why there have been El Nino like conditions in the absence of a true El Nino?

Added, for if the link does not work. - http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/b logs/earths-oceans-hit-warmest-temperatures-ever-r ecorded

Rising temps from the New Warming Climate is now the signal, and El Nino is now the noise.

Well, well, well, why who'd a thunk it ?

As for snow, remember, we have 5-8% mo Water Vapor in the Atmosphere than in 1977.

Food to chew own with yer Brain Housing Groups.
I lived in S. Paris/Bethel areas. My roof was too steep...had to use the roof rake.

It's always funny when the national news reports 12" snowstorm for Boston as a big deal, when we'd get a couple of those each week, lol. About 40" in one 12 hour period was the most I ever saw up there.

Quoting 499. tlawson48:

I lived in the mountains of western Maine for twenty years. I can't tell you how many hours I spent on the roof with a snow shovel. Not uncommon the be shoveling feet of snow, seemed like it was always below zero and always dark. Northern Lights were pretty though.
Quoting 503. HaoleboySurfEC:
I lived in S. Paris/Bethel areas. My roof was too steep...had to use the roof rake.

It's always funny when the national news reports 12" snowstorm for Boston as a big deal, when we'd get a couple of those each week, lol. About 40" in one 12 hour period was the most I ever saw up there.

Let me guess, the 40" was December 2003? I got 42" in that storm, over by Farmington/Temple. Then it rained 2 inches less than a week later, what a mess.
its still snowing in Buffalo, New York
Turned the heat on here just to make sure it works.......Sure does stink
Quoting 478. Tazmanian:

man looks like all if not all roads in the Buffalo, NY area are closed
its look like 8 feet of snow to me
508. yoboi
Guess the extra 5-8% more water vapor is having trouble in finding California...0-

Buffalo, New York
Quoting 508. yoboi:

Guess the extra 5-8% more water vapor is having trouble in finding California...0-

Cali. drought monitor

Nope, thats jus you not understanding weather, climate nor drought.

Anything else?

: P
Northern Erie Severe Watches & Warnings NOAA Weather Radio
Lake Effect Snow Warning
Statement as of 9:44 AM EST on November 19, 2014
...Lake effect snow warning remains in effect from 11 PM this evening to 1 am EST Friday...

* locations...Erie County including the Buffalo Metro area.

* Timing...late this evening through Thursday night.

* Accumulations...additional accumulations of around 2 feet in the most persistent snows. The heaviest amounts may again focus on areas from South Buffalo to the nearby southern and eastern suburbs.

* Winds...southwest 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph producing significant blowing and drifting snow.

* Visibilities...near zero at times.

* Impacts...heavy lake effect snow will result in very difficult or nearly impossible travel at times in the heaviest portion of the band. If you must travel during the lake effect snow... expect severe winter driving conditions with very low visibility and deep snow cover on roads. Some roads that have been cleared may become impassable again. Snow loads on buildings may reach critical levels and result in structural failure.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

If you lose power and plan on running a generator...make sure that the generator is located outdoors and is properly ventilated. Space heaters should also be properly ventilated and used only if they are operating properly. Make sure snow does not block exhausts and fresh air intakes for high efficiency furnaces and water heaters.
Yup, I lived in Bethel. Better yet, I was in Houlton the morning it hit. I cut it short up there that morning because the forecast just kept getting worse and worse. Made it as far as Old Town before it started snowing. Stopped in Bangor for gas, heard from a trucker that I-95 was closed south of Portland so cut off onto Rte 2 by Newport and drove right by you in the dark (which in Maine was probably lunchtime, lol). White knuckle whiteout all the way from Skowhegan to Rumford when I finally got behind a snow plow. LOL, then my windshield wiper busted about 5 miles from Bethel. Drove the last 5 miles with my head out the window.

I worked at Sunday River so everyone was pumped for all the snow. Then it warmed up and poured rain a few days later. Crazy. Bethel was essentially cut off for a day because all roads in and out of town were flooded. I remember the Androscoggin flooding badly from that.

Quoting 504. tlawson48:

Let me guess, the 40" was December 2003? I got 42" in that storm, over by Farmington/Temple. Then it rained 2 inches less than a week later, what a mess.
No weather news from Europe today as European weather blogs are snowed in by pics and videos of the lake effect snow, lol.

Nice collection including some amazing night views here as well:
http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/lake-effect-sno wstorm-near-buffalo-ny-nov-18-2014/

Photo: Lake-effect snow band over Buffalo, NY, seen from above - @Jenna_Cully

Stay warm and safe over there!

Edit: And I'm sorry to read this right now:
Deadly New York snowstorm kills five
BBC News, 19 November 2014 Last updated at 15:24 GMT
Still under 60 this morning, imagine that Florida Plunder and Loot (FPL) not very happy today!
Awesome Gods eye view dere barbamz, thanks for that one
Quoting 500. HaoleboySurfEC:

Yeah, I would think there needs to be a disaster declaration and National Guard needs to get in there. We'll call it disaster prevention. Time is of the essence. That would be my call.

Both have already occurred.
Last night TWC said the Lake Effect Snow just south of Buffalo was a 15:1 ratio.

15" of snow to 1" of rain. That's a pretty good ratio.
The pattern remains the same as per NWS NOLA/Slidell

Long term...
the main focus of the extended forecast will be the potential for
severe weather Saturday evening and through the overnight period.
Moisture will be on the increase beginning Friday as the surface
ridge slides east and southeast flow becoming well established with
model soundings showing precipitation water coming up to over 1.5 inches
late in the day. The upper trough will be swinging across Texas
and becoming negatively tilted while it does so Saturday evening.
Model soundings show middle level cooling and low level warming which
will steepen middle level lapse rates and increase instability. Bulk
shear of 70+kts which is near the maximum for this time of year still
looks to be on tap which combined with cape of 500-1000 j/kg produce
the potential for some severe thunderstorms. Model solutions suggest
slightly faster clearing of sh/ts activity so have adjusted probability of precipitation
accordingly early next week.

The remainder of the week should be dry and cooler as a deep trough
sends another strong cold front through the area Monday.

New York
At least five storm-related deaths were reported in Buffalo, New York, Tuesday night, Erie County authorities announced. A 46-year-old man was found dead in his vehicle in Alden, New York. The car was completely buried in snow, The Buffalo News reports. A second person died in an automobile accident, and the three other deaths are possibly due to cardiac complications.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for 10 counties, including Erie County, most impacted by lake-effect snow. The declaration mobilizes more than 1,000 transportation personnel, including 526 snow plows, 74 large loaders and 21 snow blowers. The declaration and also sends 150 National Guardsmen into the Buffalo area to assist with recovery efforts.

Areas of western New York will definitely need every bit of that help to clear roads of abandoned vehicles and large accumulations of snow, especially south of Buffalo, New York. Up to 150 vehicles were abandoned on The Thruway (I-90), and numerous vehicles were abandoned on roads throughout the Buffalo metro area. Emergency personnel worked throughout the night to rescue people stranded in their vehicles using snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles. Erie County officials reported that they had rescued all stranded people in Erie County Tuesday evening, but The Buffalo News reports that many weren't rescued and remained trapped overnight on The Thruway.

Of those trapped, WIVB reports that 24 members of the Niagara University Women's Basketball team were stuck on a bus on I-90 for hours. The team's bus finally was able to move after snow plows cleared a path for them, and after more than 24 hours they finally were able to leave their bus, ABC News reports.

A travel ban remains in place for areas south of Buffalo.

According to The Buffalo News, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz declared a state of emergency for all areas of Erie County most impacted by the heavy snow Tuesday. The state of emergency imposes travel bans in the areas, and includes the communities of South Buffalo, Lackawanna, Hamburg, Lancaster and West Seneca, amongst others.

Roads remain shutdown in the area, including a 132-mile-long stretch of The Thruway (I-90) from Exit 46 in Rochester, New York, to Exit 61 on the Pennsylvania State Line, according to The Thruway Authority. The New York State Department of Transportation urged people to stay off roads in western New York, as white-out conditions and snow accumulations on roads made travel impossible across a large area of the region.

Snow was so heavy that it collapsed roofs, doors and windows across the Buffalo metro area. In one such case, WKBW reports that a roof collapsed at a warehouse near a health care facility in Cheektowaga, New York. There are currently concerns that the collapse could spread to the entire building and spark a gas leak. Snow also plowed through doors at Chrissy Hazard's home in Cheektowaga. A rush of snow ripped a pair of French doors off the walls and inundated a room in the house. No one was injured in the incident.
Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service Tallahassee Florida
1010 am EST Wed Nov 19 2014

Near term [through today]...

The 7 am EST regional surface analysis showed a 1034 mb high
centered near Columbus, Georgia. Like Monday, the unusually cold, dry
airmass across our region is shallow, which will help limit
vertical mixing (and warming), despite ample sunshine. Highs will only be
in the lower to mid 50s, which is 10 to 20 deg below average for
this time of year.



[through 12z thursday] unrestricted vis & unlimited cigs will
continue. Winds will be light from the NE, generally less than 10


Prev discussion [401 am est]...

Short term [tonight through friday]...
one more very cold night is expected tonight before a moderating
trend begins. With the surface high position expected to be a tad
farther south compared to last night, the coldest temperatures
tonight may actually be across the Florida Big Bend and adjacent
extreme south-central Georgia where another hard freeze is
possible. Elsewhere, a light freeze is expected away from the
coast. Dry weather will continue through the short term.

Long term [friday night through wednesday]...
by late in the weekend, models are in overall agreement on
swinging a potent upper level shortwave and associated cold front
through the area.
Much of the guidance forecasts this trough to
take on a negative tilt just west of the area with a very strong
low-level jet core on the order of 70 knots just northwest of the
area, and 50-60 knots in our forecast area. Shear is forecast to
be quite strong with this system, and both the 00z Euro and GFS
have mid 60s dewpoints returning inland from the coast by 12z
Sunday. With this setup, a strong to severe squall line sweeping
across the area is a possibility from late Saturday night through
The main limiting factor will be the uncertainty with the
amount of moisture return and associated instability.

After Sunday, although the shortwave will lift up into the Great
Lakes, longwave troughing will continue west of the area. Another
weaker system could bring US a chance of showers on Monday or
Apart from all the danger: beautiful! Wish we could have just a little bit of this snow in Germany as I have to refill my storage of photos for Christmas cards after the last snowless winters ...

Snow covers a street at daybreak in Buffalo. From the BBC report, mentioned in post #513.
Hey, I posted a new blog if any ones interested.
Good Morning. Dr. M will probably be updating shortly with record lows and snowfall for parts of the US and the breakdown. So sad to see some deaths already in the Buffalo region and other parts as as assessments come in. Bad start to what may be a pretty extreme Winter for parts of the US unless this is a temporary "kink" (for this time of the year) as the result of the Nuri polar vortex disturbance/ripple. Have to see how the US recovers weather wise over the next three weeks................Coldest months of the Winter yet to come in Dec-February.
Quoting 349. Naga5000:

I'll have to dig up those pictures from Jan 2010 when we got the ice pellets and flurries around here. I have pictures showing icicles on a few palms around Lake Davis. But yes, very hard to get a freeze.

I actually remember watching this event unfold on birthday, was incredible to see wintry wx reach all the way down to the I-4 corridor...
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Quoting 510. Patrap:

Cali. drought monitor

Nope, thats jus you not understanding weather, climate nor drought.

Anything else?

: P

Looks like 3 strikes and yer out.