Not only is it time for a holly, jolly Christmas; but if you’re in Buffalo, NY or Toronto, Canada, it’s also the season for snow. While very few North Americans have ever heard of “lake-effect snow,” Buffalo and Toronto have enough for almost the rest of the continent.
Lake effect snow occurs when freezing winds blow over long stretches of warm water. Gaining energy, the winds pick up moisture. The water in the air forms snow, then falls to earth. Areas eastward of the lakes and leeward of the winds receive more snowfall than other locations because of where they happen to be situated in relation to the lake. Further along in the winter, the lake effect gets reduced as ice accumulates and restricts the amount of open water.
Environmental Canada, the nation’s environmental agency, reports that Canada’s winter climate is harsher than most country’s. Canadians from other provinces jab at people in Ontario’s capital as being “wimps” for griping about a little chilly weather. While Toronto’s average temperature is 28 degrees Fahrenheit in January, snowfall usually averages 14 inches for the month. The thermometer in Winnipeg is more likely to read 16 degrees below, while Quebec City receives double Toronto’s.
Toronto’s winter weather has a unique and special grip. The metropolitan area is normally humid year-round and humidity tacks on a biting edge. Also the snow can pile up quickly and unpredictably. Drifting snows pushed along by strong winds come with the winter and dangerous white-outs are not unheard of.
The winter storm last weekend in Toronto, the season’s first big one, was expected to be fierce.
A winter advisory was issued Friday with advisories warning of poor driving conditions and reduced visibilities. Additional snowfall is expected to cause commute problems from Tuesday through the weekend.
Toronto has also issued a winter alert, as the temperature is not expected to get above freezing until at least Friday. Shelters for senior citizens, the disabled and street outreaches for the homeless have seen an uptick in the number of people seeking services and assistance during the cold snap. Toronto city government officials say that such alerts are focused on warning people of dangerous conditions and encouraging them to seek a shelter. Toronto city employees will be providing transportation to shelters if necessary, according to the Toronto city government.
Buffalo, located in the western part of New York state, is also experiencing harsher than normal winter conditions. Located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, Buffalo routinely sets records for annual snowfalls. With a population of just over 1.2 million, Buffalo City Government is well versed in the needs of the population.
As soon as snow warnings are heard, an army of snowplows, salt trucks and drivers are deployed along the city streets. Shelters implement “code purple” conditions, which allows for over-crowding in harsher than normal conditions.
Buffalo is also expecting wintry weather accompanied by icy roads, at least through the weekend.
By Jerry Nelson