WATCH: Rare ‘Thundersnow’ Descends on Western New York During First Winter Storm of the Year

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Typically, when mother nature unleashes one of her strongest storms, she at least limits the event to one type of weather. But as the residents of western and northern New York enter the weekend, they do so while contending with both lightning and several feet of snow as a “thundersnow” storm churns through the area.

To make the strange weather event even stranger, it’s not affecting all areas equally. Residents in some parts of Buffalo are wading through heavy snow, brutal gusts turning gentle snowflakes into stinging frozen pellets while thunder rumbles overhead and lightning illuminates the grey sky. Meanwhile, just a few miles north, residents awoke Friday morning to a few friendly inches of glittering snowfall, the sky bright blue and welcoming overhead.

Professional storm chaser and meteorologist Mark Robinson shared the former scene on Twitter, the 3-inch-per-hour storm dousing a parking lot in heavy snow while thunder and lightning cracked in the sky. By 10 p.m., the area was blanketed in a whopping 6 inches of snow and the storm was far from over.

The National Weather Service expects the bizarre thundersnow storm to bleed into the weekend, the Buffalo area drowned in several feet of snow when it’s all said and done. “It’s going to be a long-lived event, probably 36 hours of moderate to heavy storms across a population of over a million people,” explained Fox Weather winter storm specialist Tom Niziol. “So it is a big even by all means.”

“Total snowfall that still is to come will be in feet rather than inches,” Niziol said. “This is likely going to be a top-10 storm certainly in Buffalo’s history, and maybe as much as a top-three storm for the month of November.”

New York Gov. Declares State of Emergency Amid ‘Thundersnow’ Storm

Though a snowstorm is far from an unusual weather event for New York, the thundersnow storm has left much of the Buffalo area paralyzed. Schools remain closed, as well as Amtrak stations and airports. The NFL even had to relocate Sunday’s Buffalo Bills game against the Cleveland Browns to Detriot, as Orchard Park is already under multiple feet of snow.

Early Friday morning, a news crew and their SUV became trapped in the storm. Thankfully, onlookers provided assistance and sent them on their way. “Our car got stuck after our 4:30a live shot,” WGRZ reporter Alexandra Rios explained on Twitter. “Then, at one point, about 6 people gathered together to help us out.”

“It’s a Buffalo thing,” she continued. “We may not always get along year-round, but we always come together when someone is in need.”

As the storm raged on, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for parts of western New York. The state of emergency currently covers 11 counties.

“My administration has been preparing around the clock for this potentially life-threatening weather event, bringing in additional safety personnel and equipment, closing down the New York State Thruway, and activating Emergency Operation Centers,” Hochul said in a statement.

“I urge all New Yorkers to stay prepared and vigilant over the next few days, making sure to look after vulnerable loved ones and neighbors.”