Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Historic Winter Storm in Western New York Brings Record Snowfall

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 AS OF 4:00 PM EST

A multi-day lake effect snow event occurred in and around Buffalo, New York, from the night of Wednesday, November 16, to Sunday, November 20. The National Weather Service (NWS) of Buffalo lists unofficial snowfall totaling as high as 81.2 inches in Hamburg, New York. NPR reported snowfall rates as high as three inches per hour due to the Lake Ontario effect. According to CNN, Erie County received the largest amount of snowfall the County had ever received within a 24-hour period on Saturday, November 19. Wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour (mph) accompanied the snowfall and created “blowing snow” even after the snowfall stopped, according to NWS of Buffalo. The event was recorded as the third-highest three-day total of snowfall in New York State.

Twitter: Erie County, NY

As the intense snowfall created hazardous driving conditions, officials issued travel bans in 18 communities on Thursday, November 17, and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) deployed over 500 snowplows to clear roadways. By Friday, November 19, the storm had caused numerous canceled flights at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the emergency closure of Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Depew. According to Erie County officials, the storm has resulted in three confirmed fatalities.

President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration on Monday, November 21, ordering federal aid be sent to 11 counties impacted by the severe winter storm and snowstorm. This declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating disaster relief efforts, including identifying and mobilizing necessary resources.

As of Sunday, November 20, CNN reported that winter weather alerts had been issued for “over five million people from Michigan to New York,” as forecasters predict additional snowfall over the holiday weekend potentially creating hazardous travel conditions for many.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” To stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.