Parts of New York are measuring the season's first big snowfall in feet, rather than inches, as nearly 3 feet blanketed the Buffalo area Tuesday, forcing the closure of a 105-mile stretch of the state Thruway.
The Thruway Authority says white-out conditions have closed Interstate 90 in both directions Tuesday morning from the Rochester area to Dunkirk, on Lake Erie, 35 southwest of Buffalo. The National Weather Service says a foot to almost 3 feet of snow has fallen on areas south and east of the city.
Other major highways in the area are closed, numerous schools have cancelled classes and Buffalo officials have issued a driving ban for parts of the city.
Before the storm hit Monday evening, the National Weather Service warned that snow off the Great Lakes could pile more than two feet high around Buffalo and across the Tug Hill region north of Syracuse through Wednesday afternoon. Winds gusting more than 30 mph were making travel impossible along the Thruway. Similar conditions were expected later Tuesday and into Wednesday along Interstate 81 between Syracuse and the Canadian border.
The highest snowfall total early Tuesday was just under 3 feet in Elma, just east of Buffalo, according to weather service meteorologist Tony Ansuini. The storm was dumping 3 to 4 inches of snow per hour, he said.
State troopers were using all-terrain vehicles to deliver blankets and other emergency supplies to motorists stranded on the Thruway overnight, said state police Capt. Ed Kennedy. It wasn't known yet how many people were stuck in their vehicles Tuesday, he said.
"Other than wishing they weren't stuck in traffic, they're warm and safe in their vehicles," he said.
Along the Lake Erie shore, city officials said Buffalo has prepared with eight new pieces in its 75-vehicle snow-fighting fleet, along with 4,000 tons of salt on hand and 7,000 tons in reserve.
"Our fleet is in good shape," Streets Commissioner Steven Stepniak told reporters Monday ahead of the snow. "It's in the best shape it's been."
City of Buffalo schools called off classes, as did most other school districts in the region.
The Tug Hill region on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, notorious for its yearly snow totals, was bracing for 2 to 3 feet of snow.
The National Weather Service said the Lake Michigan shoreline could get 6 to 16 inches of snow by Tuesday, while 4 to 18 inches was forecast along Lake Superior.
Parts of Indiana and Ohio also dealt Monday with wintry weather, including snow, power outages, school closings and delays. A chain reaction crash involving more than a dozen vehicles blocked an icy section of Interstate 74 near Indianapolis for a couple of hours.
Further south, temperatures plummeted across Alabama after storms left flooding and scattered damage across the state, and areas of New Mexico recorded record low temperatures. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said the mountain community of Eagle Nest
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