Lake Effect Snow Could Pummel North County

Lake effect snow is expected to strike the area beginning Wednesday evening, and could bring several inches of snow to the north county.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo issued the Lake Effect Snow Warning beginning Wednesday at 7 p.m. and lasting through 7 a.m. on Friday. As much as 10 to 18 inches of snow could fall in some areas.

The warning is for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and southern Erie counties. The most accumulation is expected to hit western portions of Wyoming County and northern portions of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, the National Weather Service reported.

Visibility is expected to be reduced at times during heavy periods of snowfall. Snow will reportedly be falling in narrow bands, the weather service said.

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan urged area motorists to use extra precaution when traveling during heavy snowfall. He said many crashes could be avoided when driving on snow-covered roads.

“Every year it seems like someone in a hurry is caught in a tragic accident,” Horrigan said. “I urge all drivers to please use caution during winter conditions and to leave early to provide extra time to get to their final destination.”

Sheriff Joe Gerace said speed plays a large role in the number of crashes during the winter. He, too, asked drivers to stay vigilant.

“A large percentage of winter driving accidents are related to vehicles traveling at speeds not reasonable for road conditions,” said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace. “We must give ourselves more time to reach our destination and slow down to avoid accidents. Our first accumulation of snow always results in a rash of traffic accidents.”

The county reminded drivers to: Clean off all snow and ice from their vehicles by making sure snow and frost is removed from the windshield, windows and side mirrors; compacted snow is removed from the wheel wells; and snow is removed from the headlights and taillights so other drivers can see you.

In addition, county officials asked drivers to reduce their speeds when roads are slick or visibility is reduced; turn on their headlights when visibility is low so other drivers can see you; and postpone or cancel non-essential trips if travel conditions are hazardous.

Motorists are also asked to update the emergency kit in their vehicles so it includes a shovel, snow brush, windshield scraper, reflective vest, flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries, cell phone charger or battery pack, water, snack food, matches, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets, tow chain or rope, road salt and sand, booster cables, emergency flares, florescent distress flag, and extra hats, socks and mittens.

The Chautauqua County Department of Public Facilities Division of Transportation will also be out plowing and salting county owned roads.

“While county plow operators are attempting to make our roadways safe, I encourage drivers to please not add to the hazards of wintertime driving,” said George Spanos, director of the Department of Public Facilities. “Drivers should always use extra caution near snowplows by reducing their speed and keeping a safe distance.”

State law says drivers are required to stay at least 200 feet behind a snowplow. If drivers must pass a snowplow, they should use caution as snowplows can create a cloud of snow that can obscure vision and the road conditions in front of the plow will likely be worse.

The Department of Public Facilities also encourages residents to clear snow from around their mailboxes and inspect and, if necessary, replace their mailbox posts to ensure they can withstand winter conditions. Mailboxes physically hit and damaged by snowplows will be repaired, but mailboxes that break from the force of the snow coming off the plow will not be fixed.

In addition, when clearing your driveway, it is unlawful to push or brush snow into the roadway. This creates a dangerous situation for motorists.

“By giving our area plow drivers room to clear the roads, being respectful and patient when we are traveling behind a plow, and using caution during adverse travel conditions, we can all help create a safe winter driving season,” Gerace said.

Significant snowfall and the potential for blowing and drifting snow can also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a gas that is referred to as the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating. If snow blocks furnace or hot water tank vents, it can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate indoors. At high levels, this gas can cause suffocation, loss of consciousness, brain damage or death.

“It is important that individuals protect themselves and their families from carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in their homes and by making sure furnace and hot water tank vents are not blocked by snow,” said John Griffith, Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services director. “It is best to keep a three-foot area clear by the vent and intake tubes.”

Portable generators can also be a source of carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use a portable generator inside a home, basement or any enclosed or semi-enclosed structure. It should be placed outside and away from windows and doors of any nearby building.