National Weather Service Buffalo, New York

Western New York Weather History

DECEMBER 10

1937 

Today's snow storm in north Buffalo (Hertel Ave. section, the Tonawandas, Sheridan Drive, Eggertsville, and other communities) was probably the most sensational and costly in the history of the Buffalo area. Losses to business, cost of opening up the sections snowed under, loss of wages to hundreds of employees, etc., from the storm conditions beginning on the 8th, were estimated at $2,000,000, although the real figure will never be known. At least one other death was attributed to this storm, making four for the week. Four to six days after the storm, full recovery had not been brought about, in spite of herculean efforts day and night; but most of the main  highways were open by Sunday, the 12th. The storm of the 10th was made much more severe by the fact that heavy snow (13.5 inches on Hertel Ave. or twice as much as downtown) fell in the same districts on the 8th. Snowfall (accumulated from both storms) on the ground at Hertel Ave. and Colvin at 3pm of the 10th was 37 inches; and on Crescent Ave. at Oakwood, 31 inches. Yet it is a fact that the real "heavy snow" district in the northern suburbs was north of Hertel Ave.; one of our observers living in that section reported that the actual fall of snow from 3pm of the 9th to 3pm of the 10th was up to his waist. Snowfall was commonly three or four feet deep on the level in such suburbs as Kenmore, and five to eight feet more in great drifts. Many stalled or parked automobiles were completely snowed under. Some of the drifts were so bad that they could not be removed by machinery. The storm was experienced on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. A report from St. Catherines, however, stated: "Motorists using No. 8 King's Highway were amazed to fine bare fields not far west of St. Catherines." Bus and streetcar service was badly disorganized by conditions, and service on some lines to Niagara Falls, Lockport, and other places, were not operating up to Saturday, the 11th, at least, the same being true of the Greyhound lines through Canada. Recovery from the storm was rapid on Main St., since lower Main was not in the heavy snow area an upper Main was only on the eastern edge of it. Highway authorities reported no major difficulty on the 11th beyond the environs of north Buffalo. As a result of the storm, food conditions became serious for many people in outlying district; food deliveries could not be made as highways in some sections were impassable. Probably no place outside of north Buffalo felt the effects of the storm any worse than Getzville in Amherst township. Large quantities of food were supplied with great difficulty to marooned families of Amherst township. One resident on Sweet Home Rd. describing conditions over a large area, said in the Buffalo Evening News, "We have had no food or milk deliveries in days. I have never seen conditions so bad." One resident in the Sheridan Dr. section telephones the Weather Bureau Office on the afternoon of the 10th, "drifts are ten feet high outside our windows." Eggerstville was also one of the places to report great drifts. River Rd. through Tonawanda was closed several days by the drifts. Airplane traffic at the Buffalo Airport was at a standstill for five days. It was not until the 13th that the field was sufficiently cleared of snow for planes to land or take off. The American Airlines landed its Buffalo passengers at Rochester during this period. Two garages collapsed within the heavy snow area. Water from melted snow on roofs got into homes and damaged hundreds of them (wall paper, etc.). The actual cost of opening streets and highways exceeded $100,000 but the total is not yet known. As soon as the wind shifted to westerly early on the night of the 10th, snow stopped abruptly in the northern suburbs, but began in south Buffalo, where nearly a foot fell during the night; the fall in downtown Buffalo at the same time was about six to eight inches. This well illustrates the fact that it is only the area which is bathed by the saturated air off the lake that experiences the great snow, although severe snow squalls, usually not of long duration may occur in any part of Buffalo and environs. Strangely enough, the usual "heavy snow" regions at this end of the lake escaped the storm; also there was very much less snow in downtown and east-side sections of Buffalo than in the northern suburbs. This reversal of conditions from normal may be explained by the fact that a low pressure area of decided intensity (29.20 inches sea level) remained practically stationary for three days north of Georgian Bay and the Ste. St. Marie sections, causing a steady gale of moderate intensity from the southwest at Buffalo, and there was no material weakening of this low until the 11th. Also, the surface temperature over the Buffalo land areas remained persistently around 15 to 20 degrees during the heavy snowfall periods, while the lake was not frozen over and the temperature of the water was about 36 degrees. Thus the "heavy snow" regions in this particular storm were bathed by a stream of saturated air from off the lake most of the time during the long storm period, the vapor being changed to snow. The snow was so light in weight that 25 inches of it were required to make an inch of water. Storms that occur periodically over a limited area to the south and southwest of Buffalo, including such places as Hamburg and Angola, occur as "tail end" storms when the center of a deep low has reached the region north of the St. Lawrence Valley. Hence they do no ordinarily occur with a southwest wind, but with a west-southwest wind off the lake. At such times west and north sections of Buffalo escape these storms because the wind off the lake does not flow over them. 

1995

9th-11th.Lake effect snow squalls began shortly after the passage of a sharp cold front which crossed Western New York during the early afternoon and evening of the 9th.

The snow squall off Lake Erie was most intense from late on the 9th through the evening of the 10th with generally two to four inches per hour falling. Over two feet of snow fell in about eight ours across most of the city of Buffalo and its near northern and eastern suburbs. The cutoff was so dramatic that snow totals decreased by 30 inches within four miles. The Buffalo metro area was brought to a standstill for days. New daily, 24-hour and storm total records were set at Buffalo. The snow accumulated much too fast for plows to keep up with. States of Emergency were declared in Buffalo, Lancaster, Depew, Cheektowaga, and eventually all of northern Erie County. The Buffalo airport was closed much of the day along with a large section of the New York State Thruway from Batavia to Hamburg. The cleanup was such a big operation the National Guard was called in to help. Specific snow totals included: Buffalo 38"; Cheektowaga and Lancaster 36"; Depew 33"; Clarence 32"; Williamsville 31"; Amherst 28"; Kenmore 21"; Elma and Alden 19"; West Seneca 17"; and Town of Tonawanda 11".

Off Lake Ontario, the event was just as intense, but much longer lasting and widespread. The band maintained itself as a single intense band over Jefferson County for much of the 10th before settling over Oswego County on the morning of the 11th. Snowfall rates of two to four inches per hour were also reported. Specific snowfall amounts reported: Palermo 42"; Fulton 41"; Fair Haven 40"; Watertown 36"; Oswego 35"; W.Monroe 34"; Mexico 32"; Hannibal 28"; Barnes Corners and N.Osceola 23"; Phoenix 22".

1997

Moisture associated with low pressure approaching the area overspread the western southern tier, the Niagara Frontier, the Genesee Valley and western Finger Lakes. Most locations had a burst of snow which fell at the rate of one to two inches per hour for several hours. The heaviest snow fell at the worst possible time, creating havoc with the rush hour traffic. Numerous auto accidents were blamed on the storm and several school districts were forced to close early. Snowfall totals ranged from four to six inches in the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas to a foot of heavy,wet snow across the higher elevations of the Finger Lakes and the southern tier. Specific snowfall amounts included: 13" in Ellicottville; 12" in Arkwright, Perrysburg, Portageville, and Arcade; and 10" in Stockton, South Dayton, Belmont, Perry, and Springville.