LAKE EFFECT STORM "BIRCH"
November 18 - 19, 2000
Lake Flake Scale: ***
Maximum Snowfall: Lk. Erie: (Buffalo Airport): 14"; Lk. Ontario: (Fort Drum): 13".
Duration: 24 Hours
Prime Feature: Moving bands...intensity. Unusual northward extent.
Lake Effect Storm "Birch" was an intense storm which focused on the most densely populated portion of western New York...metropolitan Buffalo. It was well forecasted and behaved as forecasted by the work station Eta. The snowband did not extend too far east as the winds were not especially strong...but the snow was very intense...fueled by the 51-degree lakes.
The event began during midday on Saturday the 18th. Cold air had become entrenched across the region during the previous 24 hours...and some minor lake snows had fallen over the southern tier. But as an upper level trof approached...winds backed to west and a single band set up across southern Erie and western Wyoming Counties around midday then slowly drifted north as the winds backed more southwesterly. The 850mb temps were near -8C...creating a delta-t of nearly 20 degrees. The band became very intense as it crossed the Buffalo metro area during the mid and late afternoon...dropping 3-5 inches of snow in just a couple hours. The band continued lifting north as winds backed to SSW...reaching all the way to the Lake Ontario shore from St. Catharines to Wilson where a couple,inches of Lake Erie snow fell!
The weak trof drifted east and winds became more westerly later in the evening...forcing the snowband southward once again into the metro area. It settled across the city and Cheektowaga most of the night before weakening and lifting north Sunday morning and ending by early afternoon.
Total snowfall in the Buffalo area ranged from 4-8 inches in the northern suburbs and north Buffalo to 10-14 inches from central Buffalo to Cheektowaga. The Airport caught the most...at 14 inches...the largest fall in November in Buffalo in 21 years. Amounts dropped off to the south...4-8 inches across the South towns...and less over ski country.
A similar scenario played out off Lake Ontario with the snowbands setting up over southern Jefferson and Lewis counties late Saturday...drifting north and setting up across central Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties much of the night before weakening and drifting north by daybreak. A narrow area of over 6 inches fell from Watertown ...northeast to Star Lake. Ft. Drum picked up 13".
Some snowfall totals included:
NWS Buffalo 14 inches Buffalo (Central) 10 inches Buffalo (North) 7 inches Buffalo (South) 7 inches Lancaster 11 inches Alden 10 inches Amherst 7 to 10 inches Hamburg 8 inches Elma 7 inches Orchard Park 6 inches Tonawanda 5 inches Niagara falls 3 inches
-NWS Buffalo timeframe: (11/18, 2-5pm:5.3; 10pm-mdnt: 2.9; 11/19, 2-5 am: 4.3; 10am-1pm: 1.5).
Fort Drum 13 inches Star Lake 9 inches Watertown 4 to 7 inches Castorland 5 inches
Although "Birch" was not particularly disruptive because it occurred during the weekend when most people were at home, winds were light and the snow was wet...it did affect a very heavily populated area and was unusually intense for so early in the season...so it earns a rating as a 3-Flake Storm. ***