Some improvement as parts of WNY dig out from several feet of lake effect snow

Soft reopening of Thruway, Skyway reopens

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) — There has been some improvement of conditions across the Buffalo southtowns after a massive storm dumped several feet of snow, causing at least three deaths, forcing an NFL game to be moved and creating gridlock as tractor-trailers detoured onto smaller roads to avoid a closure of part of Interstate 90 in western New York.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul Saturday afternoon announced a 'soft' reopening of the thruway. The thruway website indicates it has reopened to passenger vehicle through-traffic only between exit 53 (Buffalo (Downtown) – Canada – Niagara Falls – I-190) and exit 59 (Dunkirk).  Some exits and entrance ramps in the area will remain closed to all traffic to allow for snow removal on local roadways. The commercial vehicle ban remain in place at this time.

Additionally, the Buffalo Skyway and Route 5 complex along the lakeshore has been reopened as well.

The lake-effect storm had produced more than 6 feet of snow in some areas by Saturday morning. The southern Buffalo metro area was hit particularly hard, with some areas south of the city bearing the brunt. The front had begun to move northward from Buffalo by Saturday, but forecasts called for more snow as Monday approached.

According to the National Weather Service, Orchard Park, reported 77 inches by early Saturday.

The weight of the snow caused some roof collapses, most notably the Braymiller's Lanes bowling alley in Hamburg suffered damage described by Hochul is irreparable.

The inundation forced the National Football League to move Sunday’s game between the Bills and Cleveland Browns to Detroit.

The National Weather Service predicted partial sunshine and a break from the snow on Saturday in New York, but not for long.

“Later on this evening and through early next week, we’re expecting another round of lake-effect snow for much of western New York,” National Weather Service meteorologist Zack Taylor told The Associated Press. Taylor, based in College Park, Maryland, said that could produce as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow for areas near Lake Erie and 2 feet (61 centimeters) for areas near Lake Ontario.

In the Buffalo area, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted that two people died “associated with cardiac events related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing.” A third person - a snowplow driver in the town of Hamlet, Indiana - was killed Friday when his plow slid off the pavement and rolled over, the Starke County Sheriff’s Department. Hamlet is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Lake Michigan.

In other tweets, Poloncarz expressed frustration at reports of trucks getting stuck on smaller roads as they tried to get around the I-90 detour. A video posted online showed a line of trucks backed up on a street in Orchard Park.

The weather didn't deter one Buffalo-area couple from tying the knot on Saturday, a year after they became engaged. Robert Junge said he and fiancee Maria Szeglowski decided on a November wedding because Buffalo had only had one major November storm, eight years ago, since 2000.

After the storm prompted a driving ban that forced their banquet hall to cancel, they pivoted and decided to hold the ceremony anyway and postpone the reception until next weekend. About 100 of 180 expected guests weren't going to make it for the ceremony, Junge said.

“We’re all trying to look at in a positive way,” he said. "It’s definitely going to make for some beautiful pictures and videos.

“I know this sounds like a spiel, but I’m so excited to marry my fiancee, I love her so much, nothing was going to stop me,” he added. “I don’t need anybody to be sorry. We will get through this.”

The storm's effects varied widely in the region due to the peculiarities of lake-effect storms, which are caused by frigid winds picking up moisture from warmer lakes and dumping snow in narrow bands. Some areas of Buffalo were battered by blowing, heavy snow off Lake Erie while mere miles away, residents only had to contend with a few inches.

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed about 70 members of the National Guard to help with snow removal in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Buffalo has experience with dramatic lake-effect snowstorms, few worse than the one that struck in November 2014. That epic storm dumped 7 feet (2 meters) of snow on some communities over three days, collapsing roofs and trapping motorists in more than 100 vehicles on a lakeside stretch of the New York State Thruway.

Featured Image Photo Credit: BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 18: A man cleans the sidewalk following a snowstorm in Buffalo, New York on Friday Nov. 18, 2022. (Photo by Joshua Thermidor for The Washington Post via Getty Images)