The Empire State has a long history of monster snowfalls. Taking a look back at some of the most historic lake-effect snowstorms in New York can help offer insight into what this storm could unleash.
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – November 17, 2022 – A potentially historic lake-effect snowstorm is on the doorstep for areas in western New York and parts of Ontario, Canada, AccuWeather meteorologists warn. Winter storm watches and lake-effect snow warnings have been issued ahead of this long-duration event, which could cause travel shutdowns and potentially create a new page in the weather history books.
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 2: Trucks stand still along the New York State Thruway after a five-mile-wide band of lake-effect snow dumped more than two feet of snow and closed a 16-mile stretch of the road December 2, 2010 in Buffalo, New York. Some drivers on the thruway remained trapped in their cars for more than 15 hours. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)
Lake-effect snow events typically occur from the late autumn to the first part of winter when the Great Lakes are still unfrozen and the waters are warm, relative to the colder air flowing across the region from Canada. As of Wednesday, Nov. 16, water temperatures on the Great Lakes were within a few degrees of 50 F.
As the weekend nears and the rest of the atmospheric mechanisms come together ahead of this significant weather event, AccuWeather meteorologists have studied previous storms for any similarities that this forecast could have.
"Looking back at past lake-effect snow events that resemble the upcoming setup can give clues as to how the event will unfold, specifically which areas may be at risk for the most extreme snowfall totals," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.
Here are some of the most extreme lake-effect snowfalls on record for New York.
The historic and deadly 'Snowvember' event
Eight years ago, back-to-back storms developed between Nov. 17 and Nov. 21, 2014. The pair of storms, later nicknamed the "Snowvember" lake-effect snow event, dropped nearly 7 feet of snow across parts of western New York.
The rate of snowfall on the northern edge of the lake-effect snow band was so substantial that many described it as a "wall of snow," the National Weather Service (NWS) reported in a post-storm recap. The wall of snow created a sharp contrast between towns buried in snow and others receiving only a few inches. Snowfall rates in the "wall of snow" exceeded 3 inches per hour, while some neared 6 inches per hour. These stunning snowfall rates continued for not just hours, but days.
By the time the first event concluded on Nov. 19, it was apparent where the highest snowfall rates occurred. In South Cheektowaga, New York, a town located about 10 miles east of Buffalo, 65 inches of snow was measured. Nearly 4 miles to the east, in Lancaster, 63 inches of snow had fallen.
The Snowvember event was one of the most extreme cases of lake-effect snow on record.
"In terms of the November 2014 snow event, the atmospheric conditions and lake water temperatures present during that event are similar to the ones forecast for later this week," Duff explained. "It's important to note, though, that these events can only be used as a guide."
Mike Rodriguez digs his car out of a snow pile December 27, 2001 in Buffalo, NY. Buffalo has been pounded by a lake-effect snowstorm resulting in 6 feet of snow so far. (Photo by Mike Groll/Getty Images)
One of the most notable lake-effect snowstorms occurred in late December 2001. After a record-warm and nearly snowless November and December, a lake-effect storm impacted the Buffalo area just in time for the holidays.
In 2010, a lake-effect snowstorm brought over 30 inches of snow to the Buffalo area, creating widespread travel delays. While the storm didn't produce nearly as much snow as the previously discussed event, this early December lake-effect snowstorm was "one of the most intense and disruptive storms on record for the Buffalo area," the NWS reported.