Back in mid-November, Buffalo got hit with a lake effect snowstorm. Now, we're getting hit by a blizzard. Have you ever wondered what the difference is? Yeah, me too. Let's take a look at the types of winter storms Buffalo and Western New York experience and how they differ, if at all.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The blizzard that has battered Buffalo over the last couple of days is part of a winter system named Elliott. This storm has been affecting more than half of the country, bringing record-cold temperatures to places like Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Elliott has caused frigid temps, flooding, icy conditions, 100-car pile-ups, power outages, whiteouts, flight cancellations, and multiple deaths, including 3 in WNY.

In Buffalo, a blizzard warning was issued by the National Weather Service on Friday, December 23, 2022. For a while now, I've been wondering, what is the difference between all of the types of winter storms we experience. Let's take a look:

What Is A Blizzard?

Northeast Hit With Major Snowstorm
STONY BROOK, NY - JANUARY 29: A plow drives down Lower Sheep Pasture road shoveling snow during a major snowstorm on January 29, 2022 in Stony Brook, New York. A powerful nor’easter brought blinding blizzard conditions with high winds causing widespread power outages to much of the Mid-Atlantic and New England coast. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

According to ABC 7, in order to be called a blizzard, a winter storm must meet three requirements,

1. Sustained wind or frequent gusts of 35mph or greater.
2. Considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to under a quarter mile.
3. These conditions have to continue for at least three consecutive hours!

Elliott is definitely a blizzard in Buffalo. Hurricane-strength winds of up to 70 miles per hour have been recorded during the storm and there have been whiteout conditions, and both lasted two days.

What Is Lake Effect Snow?

Intense Winter Storm Brings Multiple Feet Of Lake Effect Snow To Buffalo Area
HAMBURG, NY - November 18: Stella, a Golden Retriever, plays in the snow during an intense lake-effect snowstorm impacted the area on November 18, 2022 in Hamburg, New York. Around Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs, the snowstorm resulted in up to four feet of accumulation, and additional snowfall is forecast for the weekend. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)

We often hear the term 'lake effect snow' in Western New York, but what exactly is it? According to the National Weather Service,

Lake effect snow is common across the Great Lakes region during the late fall and winter. Lake Effect snow occurs when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen and relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. The air rises, clouds form and grow into narrow band that produces 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more.


What Is A Bomb Cyclone?

Frigid Cold Snap Continues In New York City As Temperatures Dip Into Single Digits
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: People walk around Central Park during freezing temperatures on January 06, 2018 in New York City. The extreme conditions suffered across the United States are a result of the "bomb cyclone" brought along by Storm Grayson. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

A bomb cyclone sounds like something out of a dystopian movie set in 2075. But, it's a weather phenomenon we experience here in WNY. According to CNN,

Bomb cyclone is a term given to a rapidly strengthening storm that fulfills one important criterion. Generally, pressure must drop 24 millibars (a unit of pressure) within 24 hours.


What Is A Nor'Easter?

Northeast Hit With Major Snowstorm
CENTEREACH, NY - JANUARY 30: A man walks with snow shoes after a blizzard hit the Northeast on January 30, 2022 in Centereach, New York. A powerful nor’easter brought blinding blizzard conditions with high winds causing some power outages to the Mid-Atlantic and New England coast. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

In Buffalo and Western New York we have had our fair share of Nor'Easters, but what exactly is it? According to the National Weather Service,

A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April.


What Are Snow Squalls?

One term I had never heard of before I moved to New York is snow squalls. The National Weather Service describes them as,

Snow squalls, often associated with strong cold fronts, are a key wintertime weather hazard. They move in and out quickly, and typically last less than an hour. The sudden white-out conditions combined with falling temperatures produce icy roads in just a few minutes. Squalls can occur where there is no large-scale winter storm in progress and might only produce minor accumulations.

At the end of the day, they all result in a ton of snow lol. Hopefully, this helps you understand the difference when you hear about the next storm (because you know there will be another) hitting Buffalo.

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