Let It Snow

The holiday season is now upon us, and with it comes a mad rush to prepare. For many of us this means battling crowds at the malls and then traveling to spend the holidays with loved ones, all while hoping that the weather cooperates with our plans. Once we’ve made it to wherever we’re headed, it’s nice to just relax and watch the snow fly.

Now it’s one thing to have a few inches of snow to whiten the ground and make things look pretty for a while. It’s quite another to be pounded with heavy snow for a week straight. That’s what happened in and around Buffalo, New York beginning on Christmas Eve of 2001.

Lake effect snow band setting up near Buffalo, NY
(Photo courtesy of National Weather Service)

It had been a quiet season up until that day. The months of November and December had been unusually warm. Buffalo, which often finds itself in the bullseye of lake-effect snowstorms, is no stranger to heavy snowfall by this time of year. 2001 was different in that Buffalo had received less than two inches of snow for the entire season so far. Many people wondered if winter would ever arrive. On December 24 it did arrive, and it arrived with a vengeance!

Photo courtesy http://wintercenter.homestead.com/photoles2001f.html

A low pressure system formed over the Great Lakes and was essentially trapped in place for the next week. The result was a seemingly endless conveyor belt of snow that, when all was said and done, would end up producing some of the heaviest snowfall accumulations the area had ever witnessed. Most areas were measuring snow in feet. The entire metropolitan area surrounding Buffalo received two feet of snow or more. Areas closer to the city saw much more. Parts of the city of Buffalo were buried under more than five feet of snow. The heaviest accumulations occurred just east of the city however. At the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where the National Weather Service office is located, 81.6 inches of snow fell – almost seven feet! Considering that Buffalo’s average annual snowfall is 93.6 inches, this was almost an entire year’s worth of snow in just one week. Below is a map showing the incredible amounts of snow that fell all across western New York.

Graphic courtesy of National Weather Service

Needless to say, removing this much snow from driveways, sidewalks, streets, and highways is no easy task. Simply plowing snow to the side of the road won’t work when the snow there is already several feet deep. Shoveling snow from a sidewalk would be even more difficult, involving digging through feet of it and then having to throw it nearly straight up. Getting back to normal for Buffalo required bulldozers, backhoes, and other heavy equipment to scoop snow and place it onto dump trucks which could then dump it outside of town.

Mike Lanciki

Photo courtesy http://wintercenter.homestead.com/photoles2001d.html

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