TIME

Floods ‘More Than Likely’ When the Snow Melts in New York

Warmer temperatures could trigger significant flooding in parts of New York hardest hit by this week's snowstorm.

If “Mother Nature is showing us who’s boss,” as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of snowfall that dumped five feet on parts of Buffalo, she’s not done with the lesson.

Hard as it may be to believe, the weather in areas of upstate New York socked in by a historic mountain of snow this week will be springlike by early next week — and that means melting, which could, in turn, could cause floods, the National Weather Service warned Wednesday.

Temperatures are forecast to begin warming up on Saturday, and by Monday, they could approach 60 degrees around Buffalo and other communities that…

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TIME weather

Buffalo Braces for More Snow as Winter Storm Inundates Western New York

“It’s going to get worse in some ways before it gets better”

National weather forecasters are predicting that yet another one to three feet of snow will likely fall over western New York state during the next 48 hours after a mammoth winter storm earlier this week.

The forecasts come as the National Weather Service warned late Wednesday that existing snow loads on buildings in affected areas may be reaching their “critical levels and result in structural failure.”

The unwelcome news surfaced after large swaths of Erie Country were blanketed with more than five feet of snow, leading to driving bans and the closure of 140 miles of New York’s major transport artery Interstate 90.

In Buffalo, officials scrambled to respond to the crisis. During a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bryon Brown said municipal authorities successfully removed 5,000 tons of snow from the city’s south side but insisted that residents continue to adhere to a newly instituted driving ban. At least seven people have been killed in the area as result of the storm.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that harder times lay ahead as state officials worked desperately to clear roads and respond to emergencies caused by the storm.

“It’s going to get worse in some ways before it gets better.” Cuomo told reporters. “This is a very difficult situation to deal with.”

Read next: This Insane Time-Lapse Video Shows Snow Blanketing Buffalo

 

TIME weather

What Is Lake-Effect Snow? (Hint: It Involves a Lake)

Wintry Weather New York
A band of storm clouds moves across Lake Erie and into Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 18, 2014 Gary Wiepert—AP

Why Arctic air, a prevailing wind and a body of water can cause a blizzard

You don’t need a meteorologist to tell you what lake-effect snow is: it’s snow that’s, um, caused by a lake, right? As it turns out, things are a teensy bit more complicated than that, and if you live in one of the states bordering the Great Lakes that are forever getting clobbered by the stuff — or even if you just marvel at the footage of the latest white-out to hit those luckless places — it can help to know what’s actually going on.

Lake-effect snow starts the way so much other winter misery does, with a blast of Arctic air descending on us from the north. Water temperature, even in the Great Lakes in winter, is generally higher than air temperature, since water retains heat longer than air does, and the long, slow warming from the summer months tends to linger. Sometimes the difference in temperature — what’s known as the lapse rate — between the onrushing Arctic air and both the water and the thin layer of local air just above it can be as much as 25ºF (14ºC). That gets things churning in a lot of ways.

For one thing, the air draws moisture from the warmer lake in the same way a hurricane will as it passes over the Gulf of Mexico, gathering in fuel in the form of heat and water. The Great Lakes water warms the Arctic air too, causing it to rise; the act of rising, in turn, causes the air temperature to drop right back down. But that cold air is now carrying more moisture, which condenses into clouds — and those clouds produce snow.

Cold air does not hold as much moisture as warmer air does, which means that lake-effect storms should be heavy but relatively brief. But a lot of things can change that. Air encounters greater friction as it moves over land than it does over water, which causes it to slow down and pile up as the higher-speed air streaming across the lake rear-ends the air that has made landfall, in the same way cars can on a highway collide when the driver in front hits the brake too fast. That intensifies any snowfall.

Elevation can make a difference too. Relatively flat ground adjacent to the lake will have a higher air temperature than hilly land; the colder the air is over those elevated regions, the greater the cloud formation and resulting precipitation.

What’s more, not all Great Lakes are created equal. The distance the Arctic air has to travel over water — what’s known as the fetch — changes depending on how the lakes are oriented. Since cold air moves roughly from the northwest to the east, Lakes Michigan and Huron and part of Superior — which are generally oriented north to south — require less of a watery crossing. Lakes Erie and Ontario and the eastern half of Superior are oriented more east to west, giving cold air more of an opportunity to pick up moisture. The direction of the air also means that cities that lie to the east of a lake get hit harder (we’re looking at you, Buffalo). But even a slight shift in winds means everyone takes the blast (hello, Chicago).

None of this makes a whit of difference when your city gets clobbered by a sudden blizzard. But if you can’t be a true New Yorker or Los Angeleno without knowing just which subway lines or highways to curse, you can’t really be a Midwesterner without understanding why you’re going to spend the next three hours of your life trying to dig your car out of 18 inches of snow.

TIME celebrities

Massive Snowstorm Traps Band Interpol for Over 40 Hours

Paul Banks with Interpol perform at The Tabernacle on Nov. 10, 2014, in Atlanta.
Paul Banks with Interpol perform at the Tabernacle in Atlanta on Nov. 10, 2014 Katie Darby—Invision/AP

The group has been subsiding on Vodka, dry food, and Tim Horton’s

The rockers of Interpol have been stuck in the snow that pounded Upstate New York, for almost two days.

In a message posted on the New York City–based band’s website, the group had to cancel two shows in Canada because of the early winter storm. The group reportedly played a show in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, and were on their way to play in Toronto when their tour bus got stuck in the snow near Buffalo, N.Y.

On Tuesday they announced the cancellation of a show in Toronto and on Wednesday they did the same for a scheduled appearance in Montreal.

It’s with great regret that we have to announce the cancellation of our show tomorrow night in Montreal. We’ve been stranded in a snowstorm outside of Buffalo for over 40 hours and still don’t know when we’ll be able to move from our current position. We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to visit as scheduled but we’ll make it up to you, Toronto and Montreal. We love you guys. We were really looking forward to the shows.

According to Instagram posts and tweets, the group has been subsiding on Vodka, dry food, and Tim Hortons.

Between 4 and 6 ft. of snow have fallen in the Buffalo area so far, and additional 2 to 3 ft. of snow are expected to fall by Thursday.

TIME NFL

The Buffalo Snowstorm Is Really Causing Problems for the Bills

Wintry Weather New York
A band of storm clouds moves across Lake Erie and into Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 18, 2014 Gary Wiepert—AP

Fans who help shovel snow will be paid $10 per hour and receive game tickets

Snow accumulation in the Buffalo area is approaching apocalyptic amounts. Some places are expected to receive up to six feet. This is obviously posing massive problems for Western New York residents, including the Buffalo Bills.

The hardest-hit area is south of Buffalo, which includes the town of Orchard Park, where the Bills’ stadium is. Orchard Park reported more than four feet of snow, leaving Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Bills are supposed to play the Jets on Sunday, completely buried.

As you can see, the snow has let up for the time being, but more is expected overnight. The stadium will have to be cleared out, even as snow continues to fall. The team estimates there are 220,000 tons of snow in the stadium, enough to fill the practice facility eight times over. It’s a monumental task that will require massive amounts of manpower, so the Bills are enlisted their fans to help.

Fans who help shovel snow will be paid $10 per hour and receive game tickets. They hope to have people working 24 hours a day in order to get the stadium ready by Sunday.

The coaches are planning to sleep at the team facility. They’re also distributing the gameplan digitally because they can’t hold team meetings.

As for the players, they can’t practice because roads in most of the area are completely closed. How often do pro athletes get snow days?

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME weather

Snow Emergency: Six Dead, 100+ Trapped in Monster Winter Storm

Snow covers a street at daybreak Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in south Buffalo, N.Y.
Snow covers a street at daybreak Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in south Buffalo, N.Y. Carolyn Thompson—AP

“When we say stay home, really, stay home,” Cuomo said

Troopers in all-terrain vehicles and rescue crews working without sleep set out Wednesday to reach drivers trapped in a ferocious winter storm that dumped more than 5 ft. of snow outside Buffalo, N.Y. — with plenty more on the way.

About 140 miles of Interstate 90, the main artery running east and west across New York State, remained closed, from Rochester to the New York–Pennsylvania state line. There was no word when it would reopen.

“Mother Nature is showing us who’s boss once again,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This snowfall may break all sorts of records, and that’s saying something in western …

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TIME weather

This Insane Time-Lapse Video Shows Snow Blanketing Buffalo

By Wednesday, more than six feet of snow had fallen

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Tuesday for several counties in the Buffalo area as a severe winter storm brought more than three feet of snow. By Wednesday, more than six feet — six feet! — of snow had fallen in certain areas.

The above time-lapse video, recorded Tuesday, shows the lake-effect storm creeping over the surface of Lake Erie and into the city.

TIME weather

More Snow Expected in Buffalo’s Deadly Winter Storm

Almost 76 inches of snow fell in the suburbs in southern Buffalo

An intense band of deadly winter weather that brought more than six feet of snow to parts of New York state was due to briefly ease up Wednesday morning before slamming the area with a second round of powder later in the day. The snow was accompanied by a system that brought sub-zero temperatures overnight to all 50 states. However, the icy blanket was expected to subside by Friday with normal November temperatures returning for much of the nation.

Almost 76 inches of snow fell in the suburbs in southern Buffalo, according to The National Weather Service

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TIME weather

The Great Blizzard of 1947: Photos of New York, Buried in White

Recalling the historic blizzard of 1947 with photos that ran in LIFE, and many other pictures that were never published in the magazine

Something about snowstorms brings out the kid in most of us. Memories of those blessed, almost always unexpected reprieves from the drudgery of school — “Snow day!” — undoubtedly plays a part in the collective excitement, and whether it’s in a vast metropolis or a remote, small town, the prospect of a blizzard elicits something nearly primal in those in the storm’s path.

There’s concern, for sure — about our families, our neighbors, our power and heat, our ability to get out and about once the snow stops falling. But for a good number of us, there’s something more: something like pure, primal excitement.

In December 1947, a huge, historic storm dumped record levels of snow on the northeastern United States. In New York City, where the snow fell quietly, and steadily, for hours and hours, several LIFE photographers stepped out of the magazine’s offices, cameras in hand, and recorded the scene. Here, we remember the Great Blizzard of 1947 with some photos that ran in LIFE, and many others that were never published in the magazine.

As LIFE put it to its readers in its Jan. 5, 1948, issue:

At 3:20 in the morning it began to snow in New York City. By the time most New Yorkers were going to work the blanket lay three inches deep. But the city, used to ignoring all natural phenomena and reassured by a weather forecast of “occasional flurries,” went about its business. But as the day wore on this characteristic blasé attitude vanished. The air grew filled with snowflakes so huge and thick it was almost impossible to see across the street. They fell without letup — all morning, all afternoon and into the night.

Long after night fall the illuminated news sign of the New York Times flashed an announcement to little groups of people huddled in Times Square that the snowfall, which totaled an amazing 25.8 inches in less than 24 hours, had beaten the record of the city’s historic blizzard of 1880. A faint, muffled shout of triumph went up from the victims.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME weather

State of Emergency Declared as Buffalo Pounded by Snowstorm

Wintry Weather New York
A band of storm clouds moves across Lake Erie and into Buffalo, N.Y., on Nov. 18, 2014 Gary Wiepert—AP

Four people have died from the storm

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Tuesday for several counties in and around Buffalo, where a severe winter storm has already covered parts of the region in over three feet of snow.

The National Guard will be deployed to the affected communities to residents dig out, according a statement on the New York State governor’s website. Forecasters are predicting the snowy conditions could last through the week.

“This storm may persist until Friday morning with the potential for another two feet of snow,” Cuomo said in the statement. “New Yorkers in these areas should exercise extreme caution, and stay off the roads until conditions are clearer and safer.”

Four people have died due to the storm so far, including three from heart attacks and one who was fatally pinned while pushing a car out of snow, ABC News’ Buffalo affiliate WKBW reported. Meanwhile, hundreds of cars remain stranded on roads as temperatures plummeted across the nation — all 50 states experienced freezing temperatures Tuesday.

Snow levels are forecasted to reach over six feet in some parts of Western New York areas, while other spots have experienced snowfall rates of 4 to 5 inches an hour. The massive snowstorm is a result of what’s called the “lake effect,” in which moisture over the Great Lakes freezes into snow and blows onto land. The lake effect also results in a strange phenomenon where areas as close as a few minutes of driving from snow-pounded towns have almost no snow at all.

The snow storm is expected to continue through at least Thursday, reaching parts of central New York, before dissipating. It may even break Buffalo’s all-time record of 82 inches of snow falling over five days in 2001, according to Buffalo News.

Read next: More Snow Expected in Buffalo’s Deadly Winter Storm

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