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> Lake Storm "Aphid", 3 years ago
post Oct 10 2009, 06:55 PM
Post #1

Rank: F5 Superstorm

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Joined: 14-December 08
From: Lakewood, NY
Member No.: 16,475

On October 12th and 13th, 2006, one of the most disruptive and most destructive storms to ever hit Buffalo, NY dropped 22.6" of snow on the city and up to 24" in the surrounding areas. A meteorological marvel in and of itself, it destroyed thousands of trees throughout the city known for it's parks, many designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and tree lined streets. With a weight of nearly 10 pounds per cubic foot, trees and power lines came down, leaving hundreds of thousands without power for over a week.

Words cannot do justice to the astounding event which opened the 2006-07 season. Not only was it the earliest named event by far (two weeks) of the over 120 in the 13 year record of our lake effect archive, but it was the most unique in regards to destruction of trees and power outages, directly because of its out of season factor. Almost a million residents of the Niagara Frontier lost power, some for as long as a week, and tree damage was the worst in memory, especially to the lush vegetation in the many historic parkways and parks in the Buffalo area.

The extreme parameters of the event were noted all week and even mentioned six days ahead in forecast discussions. The depth of cold air was almost unprecedented for so early in the season and Lake Erie was a mild 62 degrees, three degrees above normal for October 12. Instability levels were dramatic with 850 mb to surface delta t's of 24C or so, inversion levels were simply off the chart at 25k feet with omega and Cape values unprecedented for a lake effect event. The only question, and a big one, was whether the boundary layer could be cold enough to maintain snow with a flow off a 62 degree lake. It was initially assumed that there would just enough moderation for the bulk of this forecasted intense lake effect storm to fall as rain, with perhaps some graupel or wet snow inland, but by Thursday morning (12th) it was becoming marginal, and a Warning was issued early Thursday afternoon for 1-6" of wet snow, specifically because of the fact that most trees were still in full leaf, and the threat of serious damage and associated power outages.

The event began with lake effect rain during Thursday morning and midday, and enough cold air became entrained to change over the precipitation to wet snow in the Buffalo area by 3 pm. Still, little accumulation resulted for a few hours, but by 8-9 pm, reports of trees falling and power outages suddenly increased rapidly after 2-3" of snow, which was very wet and weighed down the trees. Conditions only worsened overnight with near constant thunder and lightning for a good 12 hours. Cloud tops reached an incredible 25-30 thousand feet, about double we have previously observed in the worst events, this was directly attributed to the phenomenal uplift over the 62 degree lake.

The heaviest snowband set up across the North Towns Thursday evening, then drifted south to the Southtowns around midnight, then lifted slightly to the city and eastern suburbs in the wee hours before lifting north across the Northtowns again around daybreak and eventually to Niagara county Friday (13th) morning where it weakened and faded to rain as the dynamic cooling process faded and allowed the boundary layer to moderate.

It was apparent that the associated uplift and dynamic cooling was so strong that it overcame any attempt of boundary layer warming from the lake. There even may have been cooling near its edge because of this dynamic cooling as evident by lowering dew points at Cleveland, Erie and Dunkirk early in the event, perhaps a sign of air advecting into the lakeband from the land.

Even though plenty of damage resulted already in the first few inches, total snowfall in this event was simply unbelievable. 5 to 8 inches fell in the first phase of the event between 3 pm and midnight, but the snow water equivalent (swe) ratio was around 6:1 or so, hence the terrific damage to trees and powerlines. The second phase featured slightly drier snow, maybe 12:1 but it piled up another foot in heaviest area, in just 4 hours or so. The 22.6 inches recorded at the Buffalo airport not only blew away any October record (6" in 1909, only 4 falls of 2" or more in 100 years in October), but was the 7th greatest snowfall ever at any time in Buffalo!

The crippling snows extended well across Genesee and Orleans counties, and pushed into extreme southern Niagara county, but there was a sharp cutoff to any damage, which ran along a line from Whitehaven Road on Grand Island to Wheatfield to Medina on the north, Leroy and Bergen on the east, and East Aurora and southern Hamburg on the south.

Finally, all snow melted within about 48 to 60 hours with little flooding. Here are some representative reports.

All reports off of Lake Erie...

Location Snowfall
Depew 24 inches
Alden (Millgrove) 24 inches
Cheektowaga (NWS) 22.6 inches
Buffalo (North) 20 inches
Buffalo (Downtown) 15 inches
Buffalo (South) 10 inches
Amherst 14 to 22 inches
Clarence 16 to 22 inches
Tonawanda 12 to 18 inches
West Seneca 14 inches
North Tonawanda 6 to 12 inches
Hamburg 8 to 14 inches
Orchard Park 8 inches
Batavia 10 inches
Medina 8 inches
Lockport 6 to 8 inches
Grand Island 2 to 10 inches
Albion 5 inches
Brockport 3 inches
Niagara Falls 1 inch

The event had the most impact of any in our record. Not only the amount of snow which was among our highest, but it was way out of season and of course had the far greatest damage and power problems and affected over a million, people in a dramatic fashion for many days. It therefore earns...

Five ***** Stars (plus!)


Storm totals

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Winter 2010-11 Snow: 148.0"
Winter 2009-10 Snow: 128.3"
Winter 2008-09 Snow: 175.0"
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