By Jordan Root – AccuWeather
Up to 5 feet of snow and plunging temperatures has left dozens of vehicles stranded on highways in blizzard conditions and the cold and snow has taken lives.
According to the Associated Press, four people died Tuesday due to the heavy snow. Three of the incidents were caused by cardiac arrest from shoveling snow, while the other one was due to an automobile accident. A fifth death was reported by county officials early Wednesday morning.
A large lake-effect snow band formed on Monday night over Lake Erie as cold arctic air began sweeping over the relatively warmer Great Lakes. The snow band took aim at southwestern New York and has yet to give up its position.
Communities along the I-90 corridor in southwestern New York, from Silver Creek to the Southtowns of Buffalo have been left in a disabled state, after feet of snow fell on Tuesday.
The New York Thruway was impossible to traverse as snowplows were unable to keep up with the 3- to 5-inch per hour snowfall rates. To make matters worse, gusty winds accompanied the heavy snow, causing blowing, drifting, and white-out conditions at times.
Some motorists caught out in these bands were left stranded on major highways on Tuesday. Plow trucks were even stuck in some communities. The governor of New York declared several counties a state of emergency, allowing National Guard troops to be put on alert and utilized.
Five feet of snow has fallen on some of the towns south of Buffalo. Locally higher snowfall totals may come about as more information becomes available.
Depending on the investigation of snowfall measurement activities, and if the intense snow continues through Wednesday morning, there is a chance the 24-hour United States snowfall record could fall. That official record belongs to Silver Lake, Colorado, with 76 inches, spanning April 14-15, 1921. A report of snowfall of 77 inches in 24 hours at Montague, New York, was thrown out by officials from January 1997.
Due to the nature of these snow bands, some areas can get pummeled, while others escape the intense snow. For instance, the Buffalo airport has only received 3.9 inches of snow while a few miles to the south, several feet fell.
Communities downwind of Lake Ontario across the Tug Hill Plateau have also seen several feet of snow. Parts of Michigan have seen the snow pile up as well.
Another round of lake-effect snow will develop over the region on Thursday and will continue into Friday.