The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for Southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties, beginning Wednesday at 10 p.m. and continuing until Friday at 4 p.m.
One to two inches of snow is expected to fall per hour in affected areas. Winds gusts, meanwhile, may reach or exceed 50 miles per hour. Several area school districts, including Buffalo, have announced they will be closed Thursday.
"The definition for a blizzard warning is quarter-mile invisibility due to snow, with winds in excess of 35 miles an hour for at least three hours," said meteorologist Dave Zaff at the Buffalo airport weather station. "We're expecting winds gusting up to 50 miles an hour for this event and we're expecting the event to last a good 24 hours or so. This will definitely fit into the world of a blizzard warning for areas south of the Buffalo metro area, over the Boston hills in particular."
For the Metro Buffalo area and points north, including Niagara Falls, a Winter Storm Warning takes effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and continues through 1 p.m. Thursday, while a Winter Weather Advisory continues through Friday afternoon.
"We're not going to get out of this unscathed in the Buffalo metro area," Zaff said. "We're looking for rain changing over to snow overnight. We'll see anywhere from three to five inches depending on the location. Snow will be diminishing during the day tomorrow but with all that snow on the ground and with winds gusting up again to 50 miles an hour, we're going to see blowing and drifting snow here as well."
The National Weather Service has also issued a Lakeshore Flood Warning for the Lake Erie shoreline along Erie and Chautauqua Counties, from 5 a.m. Thursday until 1 a.m. Friday.
City of Buffalo officials say they are taking as many precautions as they can, in the wake of the approaching storm. That includes closing the Erie Basin Marina and Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"This is a lake-effect event. Right now, the worst of it is forecast for the Southern Tier area. But, with any lake-effect event, there could be a narrow band that impacts just a portion of the city. That's something that we will be monitoring as the storm progresses," Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn said, at a news briefing Wednesday.
With the storm predicted to have very high winds, National Grid Regional Manager Ken Kujawa offered some safety advice.
"If you do see any downed wires, please assume that they are live and do not touch them. Stay away from them. Please call National Grid or call the police department and notify them of the wires down situation. Secondly, if you are going to operate a portable generator, please make sure that you open your main breaker and place that generator as far away from your home as possible," Kujawa said.
Buffalo Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark said the filming of "Nightmare Alley" in Niagara Square continuing shooting depends on the wind because of the cranes and other equipment which might present safety risks if the winds are very high.