ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — With November creeping along, and colder temperatures finally making themselves known across Western New York, lake effect snow is back and through this weekend in a big way. Impacts will range from feet of snow in some areas in and around Erie County, to stalled travel, and the possibility of a classic clash of sports fans against heavy snow.
This is far from the first time though that this is a conversation that’s been had in Buffalo surrounding a big weekend of football for their beloved Bills. Lake effect snow is part of the identity of the team, and the city they represent. All of Buffalo and Orchard Park are housed securely within Lake Erie’s snow belt. To put it plainly, they’re in the bullseye where the ingredients for formidable lake effect snow events come together.
There are three important ingredients to put together in order to see an event like the one we will before the Bills face the Browns at Highmark Stadium this weekend.
The first, and most obvious thing if we’re talking snow is cold air. This is crucial for any snowfall, whether it’s lake effect or not. The second is a steady wind out of the southwest. This channels cold air for the longest fetch, or distance, over the open, and still relatively warm, waters of Lake Erie. This helps gather as much moisture off the lake as possible, and the difference between the cold air and the warm lake helps to build instability.
Just like a thunderstorm the more instability the stronger the lake effect band can be. The final ingredient is simply time. The longer the other two ingredients hold on, the more snow that can pile up. Even with extreme snowfall rates, it still takes days to get feet of snow on the ground.
When have we seen this before?
The most famous example that comes to mind is the 2014 lake effect snow event that sent the Bills to Detroit to play the Jets after upwards of 4 feet of snow buried what was then the Ralph Wilson Stadium. There are some interesting parallels between this event and the one forecast for this weekend. The next game that the Bills were scheduled to play after the Jets in 2014, was the Cleveland Browns who they’ll face this upcoming weekend. November 17, also marks the eight-year anniversary of the start of the lake effect snow back in 2014, the event would continue until November 19. In total four feet of snow fell at Orchard Park, with the highest snowfall report coming out of Cheektowaga where 65 inches or over 5 feet of snow fell.
Another great and more recent example is the ‘Snow Bowl’ played between the Bills and Colts in December of 2017. During the game near white-out conditions hampered play and led to a classic in the hearts of die-hard Buffalo fans everywhere, especially for those who toughed it out as over half a foot came down during game time. The wild conditions led to two missed field goals by the Colts, which worked in the Bills’ favor helping drive the game to overtime where they ultimately clinched the game. That win helped to keep their playoff chances alive, which helped them break their playoff drought which had lasted since 1999.
One final snow event is important to mention here, the last time the Bills played the Browns in the snow it was an away game in Cleveland. On December 16, 2007, the Bills took on the Browns as snow fell and winds whipped up to 40 mph. This was of course a much different Bills team, but it is worth noting the Bills were shut out by the Browns 8-0. With their next match-up in the snow set for a Bills home game the home-field advantage, and a healthy Josh Allen may stop history from being repeated.