At least 2 dead amid potentially historic lake-effect snowfall in Western New York

"This is considered an extreme event," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

November 19, 2022, 4:02 PM

At least two people have died in connection with an "extreme" lake-effect snowstorm in western New York, with Buffalo being hit with 3 inches of snow per hour. Snow in and around Buffalo will continue on Saturday with an additional 1 to 2 feet of snowfall possible.

Orchard Park has reported 77 inches of snow and Blasdell and Hamburg had reported 65 inches and 74 inches, respectively.

At the Buffalo airport, 13.9 inches of snow had already fallen as of 4 a.m. on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

PHOTO: Heather Ahmed digs out after an intense lake-effect snowstorm impacted the area on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hamburg, N.Y.
Heather Ahmed digs out after an intense lake-effect snowstorm impacted the area on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hamburg, N.Y.
John Normile/Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday she will be signing a request for a federal emergency declaration to pay for the storm's expenses, which included hiring help from private contractors. Hochul said plow crews went to western New York from across the state.

"We actually hit six inches an hour which is why we believe we'll be making history as having the most amount of snowfall in a 24-hour period right here in the state of New York. It has never happened like this before," she said.

Two Erie County residents died from cardiac arrest "related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Friday.

A state of emergency has been declared for Erie County, which includes Buffalo.

A countywide driving ban went into effect Thursday night, with only those authorized for emergency travel allowed to drive. It was temporarily lifted in Buffalo Friday morning before being reinstated for the city, Poloncarz announced.

South Buffalo in particular has been hit "incredibly hard," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said during a press briefing Friday, prompting officials to reimpose the travel ban.

"We do not want any driving in that area at all," Brown said.

PHOTO: Brett Witkowski digs out after an intense lake-effect snowstorm impacted the area on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hamburg, N.Y.
Brett Witkowski digs out after an intense lake-effect snowstorm impacted the area on Nov. 19, 2022, in Hamburg, N.Y.
John Normile/Getty Images

Around 1,000 customers are without power on Saturday, according to Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services commissioner Daniel J. Neaverth Jr.

A lake-effect snow warning is in effect through 1 a.m. Saturday for southern Erie County. A winter storm watch will be in effect from Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon.

PHOTO: A person walks through downtown in the snow Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. A dangerous lake-effect snowstorm paralyzed parts of western and northern New York, with nearly 2 feet of snow already on the ground in some places.
A person walks through downtown in the snow Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. A dangerous lake-effect snowstorm paralyzed parts of western and northern New York, with nearly 2 feet of snow already on the ground in some places and possibly much more on the way.
Joshua Bessex/AP

The snow is expected to be accompanied by lightning and gusty winds as high as 35 mph.

"This will produce near zero visibility, nearly impossible travel, damage to infrastructure, and paralyze the hardest-hit communities," the National Weather Service warned.

Major impacts will continue through the weekend for areas off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where travel will remain dangerous and widespread closures will continue.

Region prepares for 'dangerous' conditions

Hochul issued a state of emergency in 11 counties due to the storm, with hazardous travel conditions and lower power outages likely.

"This is considered an extreme event," Hochul said during a press briefing Thursday morning. "That means it's dangerous. That also means it's life-threatening."

Hochul said that conditions in Buffalo and other parts of western New York will be "very similar to 2014," when the region saw upwards of 5 feet of snow during a deadly storm.

PHOTO: A snow plow clears snow from the road on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
A snow plow clears snow from the road on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Joshua Bessex/AP

More than 350 plows, 5,700 utility crews and the National Guard have been deployed and are standing by, she said. Parts of the New York State Thruway also closed to commercial traffic starting at 4 p.m. Thursday.

"This can go on for a number of days," Hochul said. "The cleanup is going to take some time."

PHOTO: Zaria Black, 24, from Buffalo, clears off her car as snow falls Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Zaria Black, 24, from Buffalo, clears off her car as snow falls Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Joshua Bessex/AP

Schools in the region are preparing for closures on Friday due to the storm, including in Buffalo.

Erie County's executive advised private businesses to close on Friday if the forecast holds.

"We are gonna have a doozy," Poloncarz said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The city of Buffalo has brought in private contractors to handle the snow in addition to state support, according to Mayor Brown.

"This is not the normal snow event that we get, so the public has to be patient," Brown told reporters. "This is a major snowstorm."

More than 100 plows were working at one point earlier Friday and more resources and private contractors will be brought in Saturday, city officials said.

PHOTO: Zaria Black, 24, from Buffalo, clears off her car as snow falls Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Zaria Black, 24, from Buffalo, clears off her car as snow falls Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Joshua Bessex/AP

Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns has been moved to Detroit due to the weather forecast, the NFL announced Thursday. The game was initially scheduled to be played at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

Lake-effect snow hitting several states

Lake-effect snow is common in the late fall and early winter along the downwind shores of the Great Lakes, which is caused by cold air flowing over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes.

In November 2014, more than 5 feet of lake-effect snow fell just east of Buffalo, in what was one of the most significant winter events in the city's history, according to the National Weather Service. There were 13 fatalities due to the storm. A second lake-effect event days later dropped another 1 to 4 feet of snow in the same area, bringing the total from the two storms to nearly 7 feet.

As of Saturday morning, there are two main lake-effect bands affecting western New York. These bands of snow are so intense that the Storm Prediction Center put out a notice that more "thundersnow" is possible.

Beyond New York, lake-effect snow is forecast for several states, including Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Americans are experiencing brutal wind chills from coast-to-coast.

Buchanan, Michigan, has reported at least 13 inches of snow, while Gile, Wisconsin, was hit with over 22 inches of lake-effect snow.

ABC News' Kenton Gewecke, Max Golembo, Victoria Arancio, Matt Foster and Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

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