Parts of N.Y. Dig Out After Potentially Historic Snowfall

The National Weather Service recorded 77 inches in Orchard Park, home to the NFL's Buffalo Bills, and 72 inches in Natural Bridge off the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

Photograph by sefoma for Adobe Stock
Photograph by sefoma for Adobe Stock

Parts of New York state finally caught a break Sunday after a storm spent days dumping a potentially record-setting amount of snow on cities and towns east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Many businesses in the hardest-hit areas remained closed, but highways reopened and travel bans in many areas were lifted, though bands of lake-effect snow were expected to bring up to 2 feet by Monday morning in some parts of the state that were largely spared in earlier rounds.

"This has been a historic storm. Without a doubt, this is one for the record books," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a briefing Sunday.

Snow began falling Thursday in towns south of Buffalo. By Saturday, the National Weather Service recorded 77 inches in Orchard Park, home to the NFL's Buffalo Bills, and 72 inches in Natural Bridge, a hamlet near Watertown off the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

Similar multiday storms have brought bigger snowfall totals than that in the past to New York, but the ferocity of the storm on Friday appeared to threaten the state's record for most snowfall in a 24 hour period — the 50 inches that fell on Camden, New York, on Feb. 1, 1966.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Alumbaugh, who is based in Buffalo, said it was too early to say whether any of this year's snowfalls exceeded that record.

President Biden has approved a federal disaster declaration for the affected areas, which should unlock some aid. Gov. Hochul said teams were checking on residents of mobile-home parks in areas that got enough snow potentially to crumple roofs.

Due to the heavy snowfall, a Sunday football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns was moved to Detroit.

New York is no stranger to dramatic lake-effect snow, which is caused by cool air picking up moisture from the warmer water, then releasing it in bands of windblown snow over land.

This month's storm is at least the worst in the state since November 2014, when some communities south of Buffalo were hit with 7 feet of snow over the course of three days, collapsing roofs and trapping drivers on a stretch of the New York State Thruway.

Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.