Unless you are living on another continent you have no doubt heard by now about the massive snowfall in Western New York in the past five days. Some locations received up to 7 feet of snow in just a three-day period. Those locations are just 65 miles north of us. Some of our friends live there. The weight and volume of the snow caused roofs to collapse on buildings and left motorists stranded in their cars. At least a dozen people died as a result of this storm. It really was a tragedy.
We did not get that much snow here at our house. In fact, we got less than a foot out of the whole storm. This is due to a phenomenon known as the Lake Effect. Those who live on the southern and eastern ends of the Great Lakes are familiar with lake effect snow. When cold air passes over the relatively warm water of the Great Lakes, that moisture evaporates into the cold air. Then, when the air mass reaches land the air condenses and snow begins falling. These snow clouds form narrow bands that are driven by the direction of the wind. Sometimes the snow falls directly on our area and sometimes it is north of us, depending on the winds.
This storm was entirely to our north. Even when the winds drifted a little in our direction, they had tapered off so that we received less than a foot of snow, which in snow belt standards is relatively little. Our neighbors to the north were not so lucky. Some communities were hammered with a very heavy wet snow that just would not let up.
But this is Western New York and we are a hearty bunch. There are numerous stories of how neighbors reached out to help one another during this storm. People shoveled for each other, checked on the elderly, shared food and warm places, and took stranded motorists in to keep them safe. Often, it is heartwarming to live in a cold climate.
My husband and I had a short trip planned for last evening. We were going to drive 140 miles northeast to watch our daughter perform in a program at her university. She joined a dance group at school a year ago and we had never before had a chance to see one of these dance shows, so we desperately wanted to go and she really wanted us to be there. We knew all along it would be a tight turn-around, since my husband had to work in the morning. But we planned it anyway.
Then the storm hit. We watched carefully to see where the snow was falling and determined that safety would have to be our first priority. Luckily for us there is an alternate route that does not involve the New York State Thruway, which was closed for several days and only opened to limited traffic yesterday.
Then the window opened. The snow stopped almost entirely and we set out on our trip, heading east, away from Lake Erie in order to avoid any road problems, and then north towards Rochester. It was clear driving the whole way. We arrived in plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and watch our daughter’s show, and then we headed home in the dark and bitter cold night. Yes, we did make a five hour round trip drive just for our daughter. We are parents, and that’s what parents do sometimes. We did it to support our daughter. She’s worth it.
Today, we have a freezing rain advisory. With the air temperature warming up now the precipitation is changing once again and we will see some mixed rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain for a while before it turns to all rain later.
So our window of opportunity was open just a little bit, and we drove right through it.
But I really want to congratulate all of the Western New Yorkers who helped each other out in a time of crisis this past week. There is a very good reason why Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors!