Lake Effect Storm December 10-12, 2009

Maximum Snowfall: Lake Erie 27" (Springville); Lake Ontario 40" (Highmarket) 

Duration: 54 hours +/- 

Prime Feature: Classic WSW event, all ingredients prime. Well inland extent.

The 2009-2010 lake effect season got off to a belated start, but its initial storm was a very impressive one, indeed a "Classic" event. It came on the heels of a huge storm that traversed the nation from California to the Great Lakes,leaving a strong cold west to southwest flow in its wake. All the ingredients were there for a major event for our area, strong unidirectional flow, good moisture, increasing instability as 850 mb temps fell into the -10c to -13c range for prime snow growth. Lake temps were in the 5-7c range. Its only mitigating factor was the very strong winds, 60 kts at 800 mb, which delayed organization a few hours. Still, this also aided in an unusually far extent of snowbands, with significant accumulations off Erie well into the Rochester metro area. The event began rather slowly as marginal temperatures and strong southwest winds kept activity from getting too organized on Wed night Dec 9th, finally after midnight, a snowband set up on a 230 flow across northern Erie and southern Niagara counties, which settled south into southern Erie/Wyoming by mid morning Thursday after dropping 2 to 4 inches. A short wave then approached and lifted the band northward for several hours during the day, a bit further north than expected, across the metro Buffalo area and on across Genesee and Monroe counties with several inches, then settled slowly south and stalled out for many hours during Thursday evening 10th with very intense snowfall rates across the Buffalo South Towns and on into Wyoming county. This band also dropped down across the lakeshore areas of Chautauqua county with intense rates with major implications on the NYS Thruway. The activity dropped further south and set up across the southern tier counties for much of Friday, with some locally heavy amounts around Chautauqua Lake in the afternoon. Drier air advected in during the evening and the Erie activity weakened and ended by midnight. Off Lake Ontario, a similar scenario ensued, albeit several hours later. The band initially set up in the Watertown area Thursday morning and slowly settled south later Thursday into early Friday (11th) with intense rates across southern Jefferson and central Lewis counties. The band then settled further into southern Lewis and Oswego counties later Friday as winds veered a bit further and most of Friday night before weakening Saturday morning as the drier air advected in.

This was quite an event to start the season. Surface winds were very strong with resulting in considerable blowing snow and whiteout conditions at times. The NYS thruway was closed between Dunkirk and the PA line with hundreds of motorists stranded. The Buffalo and Rochester metro areas were affected as well, although major impacts were restricted to Buffalo's South Towns. Snowfall totals were extreme in the heavier areas. It therefore earns five ***** stars.

Here are some representative reports. 

Off of Lake Erie...

Location Snowfall
Sprinville 27 inches
Perrysburg 24 inches
Colden 23 inches
Arcade 23 inches
Warsaw 22 inches
East Aurora 17 inches
Batavia 17 inches
West Seneca 13 inches
Buffalo 3-9 inches (N to S)
Rochester 2-8 inches (N to S)

Off of Lake Ontario...

Location Snowfall
Highmarket 40 inches
Port Leyden 37 inches
Lowville 30 inches
Redfield 28 inches
Copenhagen 21 inches
Carthage 15 inches
Watertown 11 inches


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