Snowvember, One Year Anniversary of Epic Snow in Buffalo – Surrounding Area
It all started one year ago, an epic snow event that hit parts of the Buffalo area and other surrounding Western New York cities. Below is a great look back that was sent to me by Richard Hulburd who lives in Hamburg, New York.
Richard sent me what it was like to be in the thick of the snow storm. He also sent some great information including the Buffalo National Weather Synopsis of the storm. Richard put together a great video that plays out the Snowvember snowstorm which includes some really cool pictures that he gathered from different sources as the snow was falling. A BIG Thanks Richard for taking the time. Everything below was put together by Richard Hulburd from Hamburg, NY.
November 2014 Lake Effect Snow Storm Video, Buffalo New York
Richard’s Story Lake Effect Snow Storm Buffalo, Hamburg, NY
I drove home from training right by the Airport on the 17th and on the way home the snow from the low-pressure system was just ended. The total from that storm was around an inch. After I got home the band really started to get going. I went to the gym and on the way home the roads were already getting bad. I always go lake effect chasing so decided to attempt to go out in it and see how strong the band was and to visit the Weather Channel who were in the town of Hamburg about 2 1/2 miles away. I got about a mile and decided to turn around. I have driven in some heavy snow, but this was something else. I could not see anything at all, literally… Between 9 and 1 am I received 18 inches of snow. The snow continued overnight as I went on several walks outside in the heart of the band.
The following day the band continued producing rates of 3-5 inches an hour on average. The total from round 1 at my location was 50″. Round 2 was not as intense as round one but still very strong. I went for several walks around Hamburg and posted videos on my Youtube channel for the entire duration of the event. I was in contact with several meteorologists’ from NBC, CNN, and The Weather Channel that used my Youtube videos to show others how crazy this event was. During round 2 I was able to go on the I90 New York State Thruway and walked down the middle of it. It was so awesome! It was a surreal scene with just the snow banks, snowfall rates, and the calmness that I felt as I walked there alone. It is something I will never forget!
As we walked around during the course of the event the people we met were in such good spirits despite what was going on. We saw loads of people walking back with beer and food and the store shelves were completely empty.
Towards the end of the event, I received some staggering snowfall rates of up to 6-7″ per hour. In total received 38.5″ from round 2 for a 3 day total of 88.5″ for the event. It was very difficult to keep accurate totals for this event, but I was in a prime location for the heaviest totals. Definitely an event that i will never forget and tell my grandkids about.
First Event November 17-18th 2014
The epic November 17-19th 2014 lake effect event will be remembered as one of the most significant winter events in Buffalo’s snowy history. Over 5 feet of snow fell over areas just east of Buffalo, with mere inches a few miles away to the north. There were 13 fatalities with this storm, hundreds of major roof collapses and structural failures, 1000s of stranded motorists, and scattered food and gas shortages due to impassable roads. Numerous trees also gave way due to the weight of the snow, causing isolated power outages. While this storm was impressive on its own, a second lake effect event on Nov-19-20 dropped another 1-4 feet of snow over nearly the same area and compounded rescue and recovery efforts. Storm totals from the two storms peaked at nearly 7 feet, with many areas buried under 3-4 feet of dense snowpack by the end of the event.
The storm began Monday around 6 PM evening (Nov 17) as a band of snow developed over the Buffalo Southtowns and quickly moved into the Northtowns with thunder and lightning. However, the band settled south fairly quickly…and by 9 PM the band had moved mostly just south of the city and airport and locked in place as the 15-20 mile wide band centered on a line from Lackawanna and Hamburg ENE across West Seneca, Lancaster, and Alden.
The northern edge of the lake effect band was so striking that many described it as a wall of snow. Snow rates on the northern edge easily exceeded 3 inches per hour with some snow rates near 6 inches per hour. By sunrise, some areas had already exceeded 3 feet of snow. This occurred in under 12 hours. Meanwhile, the southern edge of the band was located along the Lake Erie shoreline in Chautauqua County to near the Southtowns, including Orchard Park, East Aurora, and east into Wyoming county including Attica where about a foot of snow had fallen by sunrise. Travel across the Southtowns was nearly impossible with most roads unplowed as plows, at least those that weren’t stuck, focused a few main roadways needed for emergency vehicles. The Thruway was was shut down from the PA border to Rochester, and other routes, including 190, 290, and 400 were also shut down.
During Tuesday, November 18, the snow band didn’t budge, and by nightfall snow amounts from Lancaster to Southern Cheektowaga east to Alden had accumulated in excess of 4 to 5 feet by the end of the day. The wall of snow was still quite apparent with blue skies to the north and zero visibility on the other side. On Transit Road, there were only a few inches on the ground at Genesee Street, but several feet of snow at Walden Avenue less than 2 miles to the south. Winds gusted to 35 mph…and briefly gusted higher along the edges of the band…but in general winds created sub-blizzard conditions. There were still whiteout conditions however as snow continued to fall in excess of 3 inches per hour.
The band began to waver a little to the south Tuesday night…but overall continued in a slightly weaker state over the southtowns. Finally, the band let up as it drifted to the north and weakened rapidly Wednesday morning.
East of Lake Ontario, a lake band developed south of Watertown Monday night, then drifted north across the city and ENE to Harrisville. This band produced stronger winds than its Lake Erie counterpart, with gusts mostly in the 40-50 mph range with a peak gust to 55 mph at Watertown, producing blizzard conditions at times. By Tuesday night the band settled south over the Tug Hill Plateau, then quickly moved north Wednesday morning. Storm totals were highly variable, with snow amounts generally ranging between 1-2 feet in the hardest hit areas.
Snowfall Off Lake Erie
65 inches… S. Cheektowaga
63 inches… Lancaster
60 inches… Gardenville
57 inches… West Seneca
51 inches… Elma
48 inches… Hamburg
6.2 inches… Buffalo airport
Snowfall Off Lake Ontario
22 inches… Philadelphia
16 inches… Redfield
16 inches… Beaver Falls
16 inches… Theresa
15 inches… Harrisville
Second event November 19-20th 2014
A very favorable climatological pattern for heavy lake effect snow was in place over the lower Great Lakes Wednesday and Thursday, Nov 19 and 20, as a deep closed H5 low was centered near the Michigan Straits while anomalously cold air was over the upper Ohio Valley and Mid West. At the surface, low pressure over the Upper Great Lakes Wednesday afternoon tracked across Southern Ontario to the Ottawa Valley by Thursday morning… then to the St Lawrence Valley by Thursday evening. This synoptic pattern circulated H85 temps of -14c across the lower Great Lakes to produce moderate to extreme instability over the relatively mild lake waters. The building instability was accompanied by a capping inversion that rose from around 7k feet at the start of the event to around 15k feet at its peak. This was all very conducive for the second straight lake effect event in less than 48 hours.
Starting with the activity off Lake Erie
Lake effect snow blossomed over Eastern Lake Erie and Southern Ontario Wednesday evening on a 220 flow. Cloud to ground lightning was noted near Long Point near the onset of the activity. As the cold air deepened and low level winds veered to 240, the lake band pivoted east and aligned itself with Lake Erie, allowing it to take full advantage of heat and moisture fluxes from the full fetch of the lake. The somewhat cellular band intensified into a solid plume of moderate to heavy lake snow, producing more thundersnow (in the Buffalo area) process. In the vicinity of the lightning, dual pol imagery depicted a wealth of graupel around 4k feet (nr -10c), which just happened to be in the heart of the mixed phase portion of the lake cloud. The band temporarily settled south to the Chautauqua County lake shore to the Buffalo Southtown’s to Southern Genesee County by midnight…very close to the where the momentous lake snow storm took place 24 to 48 hours earlier.
During the overnight, the band drifted back north to the Buffalo metropolitan area with enhanced cells producing another round of thunder snow. Unlike the epic event of the previous couple days, this snow band oscillated back and forth for the remainder of the event…drifting south by daybreak across Southern Erie County (about 10 miles south of the heaviest snow from the previous storm) and extending across Wyoming County before arching back to the north to the immediate southern suburbs of Buffalo for a couple hours Thursday afternoon.
The lake band was very well organized from late Wednesday night through much of Thursday, with IR satellite imagery indicating that there were abundant overshooting tops within the bands where some cloud tops (-35C) exceeded the cap by some 5k ft. The intensity of the band was also evident from the 2 to 4 inch per hour snowfall rates. This enabled the event to produce snowfall amounts of up to 4 feet across parts of Southern Erie County and Wyoming County. The moderate to heavy snow extended east across Livingston and Ontario counties as well…with accumulations approaching a foot over northern Livingston County. After the passage of a couple of reinforcing secondary cold fronts late Thursday afternoon and evening, the low level flow veered to the northwest, and this pushed the lake snows into the southern tier where increased shear and a shorter fetch broke the solid plume of snow into multiple bands. Snowfall amounts across the Western Southern Tier generally ranged from 6 to 12 inches with slightly higher amounts over the hilltops.
Off Lake Ontario
As is usually the case, the lake effect snow was 3 to 6 hours later in developing than that off Lake Erie. The band initially started over Kingston and parts of southern Quebec shortly after midnight Wednesday night, then as the 220 flow veered to 240 during the wee hours of the morning, the band shifted south and east across Jefferson County. By daybreak Thursday, twin bands of moderate to heavy snow were found east of Lake Ontario, with one centered over northernmost Jefferson County and the other over the northern slopes of the Tug Hill and northern Lewis County. As the southern band pushed south off the lake during the course of Thursday morning, the northern band drifted south to the northern slopes of the Tug Hill (southern Jefferson County to northern Lewis) where it remained nearly stationary through the course of the afternoon. Unlike the plume of heavy snow off Lake Erie, there was only limited lightning generated from the band off Lake Ontario, and that came over the Tug Hill Plateau. There is a suggestion that this lightning may have had some help from the orographic lift, as there was no lightning with the band when it was north or south of the Tug Hill.
A solid band of heavy lake snow was found over the Tug Hill Thursday evening, then the activity drifted south across Oswego and southernmost Lewis County during the remainder of the night. Snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches an hour helped to produce an average of a foot to a foot and half of snow within this band leading up to daybreak Friday…at which point the lake effect had weakened and become multi band in nature over Oswego and Northern Cayuga counties. The lake effect remained multi band in nature Southeast of Lake Ontario through midday Friday while continuing to weaken to nuisance lake streamers. Little additional snow accumulations were reported during the daylight hours Friday.
Snow Off Lake Erie
49.0 inches… Wales Center
48.0 inches… Marilla
47.5 inches… East Aurora
40.6 inches… Wyoming
10.7 inches… Buffalo airport
Snow Off Lake Ontario
22.4 inches… Highmarket
19.9 inches… Carthage
18.0 inches… Constableville
12.8 inches… Harrisville
11.0 inches… Redfield
From a climatological perspective, the storm had signs of an unprecedented event early on, with historical analogs and climatological ensembles pointing to a rare if ever seen event over a 30 year climatology. 500 mb temperatures eventually dropped to -42C on the KBUF sounding Tuesday evening. With lake temperatures around 9C, lake induced equilibrium levels exceeded the 500mb level and maxed out near 20000’. Further up in the atmospheric column, the 200mb heights were lower than anything in recent memory. The more traditional 850mb temperature value of -15C was also on the lower edge of the climatological spectrum. From pattern recognition, this was a high confidence event…with “feet” of snow in the forecast over four days in advance. Data from the Saint Louis University CIPS (Cooperative Institute for Precipitation Systems) showed several analogs that matched 24 hour record snow events for Buffalo. Locally generated climatological analogs also showed that this event fit the bill for a significant event. The office had 56 hours lead time on a Lake Effect Watch and 32 hours lead time on a Warning. The office mentioned 3-5 inches per hour in the Warning prior to the start of the event and mentioned 2-3 feet forecast with additional significant amounts with the next event later in the week. Travel was forecast to become nearly impossible.
On a side note, this has happened before. During December 14-18, 1945. The airport measured nearly 37 inches with in excess of 70 inches just 4-6 miles south (Lancaster).
Favorite YouTube Videos Richard took during the lake effect snow event:
* Richard Hulburd
* Buffalo National Weather Service