Great Lakes snow piles up in N.Y., Pennsylvania

/ Source: The Associated Press

Bands of snow blasting off the Great Lakes buried one western New York town under four feet of snow and caused a pileup that left motorists stranded for hours on a stretch of Interstate 80 in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The lake-effect storms were whipped by gusty winds, closing schools and disrupting travel as far north as the Lake Ontario shore.

In Randolph, N.Y., a rural town 50 miles south of Buffalo, motorists were banned from driving Tuesday after the area received 40 inches officially, with some seeing even more.

"I think my arm pits are higher than that so I'd say 4 feet," Town Supervisor Dale Senn told The Associated Press over the phone.
Forecasters say this blast isn't over, with bands of heavy snow expected to continue into Wednesday. The snow was being fed by Lake Erie, which borders western New York, northwestern Pennsylvania and northern Ohio, and Lake Ontario along New York's northwestern edge. More was forecast for Thursday, though in lesser amounts.

Senn said the driving conditions were made worse by high winds that caused poor visibility along local roads, where drifting snow pinched vehicles down to one lane. Snow-removal efforts were hampered when two of his town's four snowplows broke down, he said.

"You can't see over the banks," he said, "so it's better if people stay home."

The snow piled the highest in the small towns and sparsely populated areas south of Buffalo, N.Y., and Erie, Pa.

In Bradford, Pa., a foot of snow fell Monday and at least six inches more was expected Tuesday. About eight inches fell farther south in Somerset, with more reported in the Laurel Highlands east of Pittsburgh.

Nearly two feet of snow was dumped on parts of northeast Ohio, with more than 20 inches on the ground by Tuesday afternoon in Pierpont, about 70 miles east of Cleveland. Winds were gusting up to 25 mph along Lake Erie, dropping temperatures into the teens and single digits, according to the National Weather Service.

A group of young Jewish men traveling in a car with Michigan plates pass the time dancing to music that blared from their car while they are stuck in a traffic jam on Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, on Interstate 80, about 3 miles east of West Middlesex, Pa. Miles of east traffic was stopped for hours in Mercer County during the afternoon because of a series of weather-related accidents. (AP Photo/The Herald, Sharon, Pa., David E. Dale)David E. Dale / The Herald

Pennsylvania State Police blamed the weather for a Monday afternoon multi-car crash that backed up traffic for several miles on Interstate 80 near the Ohio border, and for dozens of other crashes. There were no reports of serious injuries.

Some communities along Lake Ontario, meanwhile, have seen more than two feet of snow in the last few days. More than 17 inches had fallen since Sunday in Rochester, causing dozens of fender-benders during the city's morning commute Tuesday. Another foot was expected by Wednesday, blown around by strong winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts of up to 35 mph.

Intense lake-effect snowstorms are typical for late fall and early winter, when cold air rushes over warmer water. The threat is lessened later in the season when ice forms on the lakes.

Lake-effect snow advisories or warnings were in effect until Tuesday evening in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Bradford, Pa., and Batavia, until Wednesday morning in Rochester, Olean and Binghamton and through Wednesday evening in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties.