NOTE: This article includes information and text from the National Weather Service.
(WGHP) – While we have been experiencing temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below normal in the Piedmont Triad this week, we’re not seeing anything like what those in the Great Lakes and Upstate New York are seeing — several feet of snow.
As of Friday morning, the Great Lakes region is experiencing a lake-effect snowstorm that has brought intense, heavy bands of snowfall.
Some areas in the Great Lakes and Upstate New York have already picked up nearly two feet of snow with much more on the way.
Not only are some Buffalo residents experiencing blowing, heavy snow, but they’re also occasionally hearing claps of thunder, known as thundersnow.
So far, the highest snow totals have occurred south of Buffalo. The National Weather Service is reporting more than two feet of snow in many places along the eastern side of Lake Erie.
Other areas have seen even heavier bands of snow with nearly 37 inches measured, so far, in Hamburg, New York.
As of noon Friday, Orchard Park, NY has picked up three feet of snow and South Buffalo has picked up just over a foot and a half of snow.
What is lake-effect snow?
Lake-effect snow is common across the Great Lakes region during the late fall and winter.
It occurs when cold air, typically originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes.
As the cold air passes over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere.
As the air rises, clouds form and grow into narrow bands that produce two to three inches of snow per hour or more.
Wind direction is also a key component to determining what areas will receive lake-effect snow. If the wind is blowing in a direction that covers more of the lake, then the air is able to hold more water.
Also, the bigger the temperature difference between the lake and the air, the more water the air is able to hold.
Depending on where the wind is blowing from, heavy snow may be falling in one location, while the sun may be shining just a mile or two away in either direction.
What is thundersnow?
Thundersnow is exactly what the name implies, snow accompanied by thunder and lightning. It’s a relatively rare event and only occurs when specific weather ingredients are able to come together.
Thundersnow forms in areas of rapidly rising air, where a mass of cold air is on top of warm air and there’s plenty of moisture close to the ground.
Thundersnow is typically associated with very heavy rates of snow.
Other significant lake-effect snow storms near Buffalo
Nov. 17-19, 2014, and Nov. 19-20, 2014
This is definitely not the first time Buffalo has experienced a major lake-effect snowstorm.
From Nov. 17 to 19, 2014, a similar event occurred, dumping nearly seven feet of snow on some areas over the three-day period.
Over five feet of snow fell over areas just east of Buffalo, with some only picking up a few inches just a few miles north.
The event led to hundreds of major roof collapses and structural failures, thousands of stranded motorists and food and gas shortages due to impassable roadways.
Numerous trees fell due to the weight of the snow and led to power outages.
Another event occurred just days after the first, in the same year, and dumped another one to four feet of snow over nearly the same area.
Storm totals from the back-to-back storms peaked at nearly seven feet, with many areas buried under three to four feet of dense snowpack by the end.
Dec. 14-18, 1945
Another noteworthy lake-effect snowstorm occurred from Dec. 14 to Dec. 18, 1945.
The Buffalo airport measured nearly 37 inches of snow with Lancaster, nearly six miles south, picking up an excess of 70 inches—close to 6 feet—of snow.