Lake Effect Summary - December 21-23, 2008

Maximum Snowfall: Lake Erie 18" (West Seneca); Lake Ontario 18" (Diana) 

Duration: 42 hours +/- 

Prime Feature: Near blizzard conditions. Very strong winds. High population.

The very active early winter continued as close on the heels of a major synoptic storm which dropped 6 to 12 inches across the region on the 19th. The season's most severe lake effect event followed the passage of a sharp front early on Sunday the 21st. A band of synoptic snow dropped 2 to 4 inches across the west and 4 to 8 inches east of Lake Ontario in advance of the front. Winds turned southwest and increased to 30 to 40 mph with higher gusts by early afternoon over the west and almost as strong by late Sunday afternoon east of Lake Ontario. The strong winds inhibited single band formation, but resulted in a broad 20-30 mile wide area of lake snows northeast of Lake Erie right across the Buffalo metro area during the afternoon, which gradually settled south across the city and nearby southern suburbs in the evening. There were actually two and even three single bands embedded within the larger area as winds slowly veered from 240 to 260 by midnight. The winds created whiteouts and near blizzard conditions at times, with drifts commonly three feet across the entire Buffalo metro area.

A trof passed around 3 am on Monday 22nd and bands shifted south where they remained in a weakened form across southern Erie and northern Chaut/Catt counties during the day Monday before drifting north and weakening Monday night, passing across the Buffalo metro with an inch or less early Tuesday morning as winds veered to south.

Off Lake Ontario, a similar scenario ensued, but about 4 to 6 hours later. The main activity was over Jefferson and northern Lewis counties Sunday afternoon and night, gradually shifting south across Oswego county Monday and settling across the Syracuse area later Monday before shifting north and weakening Tuesday morning.

Snowfall amounts were close to a foot across metro Buffalo with a bit more in a strip from Hamburg to West Seneca to Elma to Batavia. Six inches fell up into far southern Niagara county, and even Rochester caught three inches as the band extended that far east for a time Sunday evening. Off Ontario the heaviest amounts fell from central Jefferson to northern Lewis counties, although a narrow area of a foot also was recorded in the Syracuse area and far southern Oswego county as the band stalled Monday.

The strong winds and frigid temperatures combined with the heavy snow to create the worst whiteout conditions and drifting in the Buffalo area in several years. Activities were ground to a halt with several major highways closed, including the I-90 NYS Thruway. It affected a large population area base, with the only saving grace being that it was a Sunday afternoon and night which did limit the impact. It therefore earns a strong four **** stars.

Here are some representative reports. 

Off of Lake Erie...

Location Snowfall
West Seneca 18 inches
East Aurora 17 inches
Darien 15 inches
Elma 14 inches
Buffalo 9-12 inches
Warsaw 11 inches

Off of Lake Ontario...

Location Snowfall
Diana 18 inches
Lacona 15 inches
Copenhagen 14 inches
Syracuse 13 inches
Carthage 11 inches
Watertown 7-12 inches


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Page last modified: December 18, 2013
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