Buffalo Does Not Have A Real Winter

:date: 2022-12-28 12:04 :tags:

Buffalo does not have a real proper winter. Instead it gets sporadic cold snaps and snow storms that can be challenging. Maybe more challenging and dangerous because it is not a true winter climate.

I'm an odd person. The chances of me dying from cold or hypothermia or exposure or in an avalanche or down an ice crevasse or in a freak Zamboni accident, etc, is way, way, way higher than the average resident of Buffalo, New York. However, if you read that 30+ people have died (base rates? causality?) in "Buffalo" because of winter related problems, you can pretty well bet on the fact that I will not be one of them. While I appreciate the concern people have recently expressed that I might be struggling with the weather, it turns out that I am but for different reasons than the news has led you to expect: specifically, it is too hot and there is not enough snow.

So what the serious fuck is going on with the "news"? Here is a typical random article from Connecticut talking about Buffalo for some reason. Here is an AP article with photos with the ominous title "Military police enforce driving ban in snow-stricken Buffalo"  —  yet conditions look like normal stuff to me. This is the second time in a month that Buffalo, NY has lurched to the top of the sensational weather news to tell the world how incredibly wintry my neighborhood is. I guess there have been a lot of fatalities. There has definitely been some cold and windy weather recently that could have caught people by surprise. But why there would be more deaths than normal is still unclear to me.

It is also weirdly the second time I have left town only to have a giant weather related clusterfuck block my return home! Because I find Buffalo winter unsatisfactory for my purposes, I travelled to the Adirondak Mountains of upstate New York. And once again, while away, people are writing to me wondering how many limbs I have left because of frostbite amputation. People as far away as Australia have asked me about Buffalo's apparently world-famous weather.

First, let's review the recent and pretty serious weather that was all over the entire eastern part of the continent. Where I was seems typical: last week the weather was doing its normal thing, but around Friday December 23 it got much warmer than normal while pissing rain, and then the temperatures plummeted about 40F/22C. Where I was this massive rainfall at 45F/7C obliterated the snow base from about 20"/50cm down to 4"/10cm in a day. Then from about 1400 to 1800, the temperature dropped to 2F/-17C. The rain turned to snow for a short while but that only put back a couple of inches. It was mostly a very hard ice with a light coating of snow. As a bonus, it was pretty windy. I heard from people all over the eastern US from Cincinnati (down to -7F/-22C!) to Philadelphia that it was a similar story there. Buffalo did have a remarkable 65mph/105kph wind gusts on the report.

I was sitting far away in a cabin in the forest using my limited internet connectivity to figure out what the hell was going on and, importantly, how I would get back home. I watched Buffalo's traffic cams and there wasn't much to see because there was a lot of snow. Fine. But checking again on Saturday, it was interesting because there was no traffic at all. None. Because the roads were closed. This article mentions the "driving ban" but it was more serious than this. Looking at Google's traffic, I saw something I've never seen before  —  all of the freeways in Erie County, NY were closed and had a little no-entry icon.

Ok, I was thinking they'll surely get that sorted out soon. Sunday  —  closed. Monday  —  still closed. WTF? Tuesday came, I needed to go home, and the freeways were still closed! Amazingly the entire stretch of I-90 from Rochester to Buffalo was closed. It turns out that while I was driving back, they just opened the freeways, i.e. hours before I got there. That's after four days.

I just am still kind of blown away at what a weird thing this is. What the hell happened?

Well, I do have one very good source of perspective which is my dash cam. Have a look at the conditions I drove through in the mountains for several hours as I drove from Saranac Lake, NY to Rome, NY.





Deer  —  just as much of a hazard.





I called this guy "dumberjack"  —  what a stupid place to park. I crept around him and  —  of course  —  an on-coming car appears around the blind turn.



Yes, that is a snowmobile trail crossing.


That snowmobile on the left just crossed the road in front of me.


These people are probably freaking out about the snow  —  with high fives and hugs!


That snowmobile on the right just passed me.


Snowmobiles are a sign that a region enjoys a proper winter.







Another snowmobile on the right. It was getting pretty wintry for mountain driving. But I managed to not get hysterical.


So that's driving in the Adirondak Mountains where they really get a real winter and it was actively happening.

But take a look at what we found as we started to approach Buffalo.


This is 43mi/70km from Buffalo (heading west on the I-90). This road was closed for four days. Is that grass visible? Yes it is. I'm just not seeing the extraordinary problem here.




Here you can see the landing lights of BUF, the Buffalo Airport, also closed. Does this look like a serious winter situation? Not to me.


Here's what my exit looked like  —  again, closed just a few hours earlier.


I don't know what the hell was so problematic while I was away but this may be the source of a lot of trouble. Note the idiot passing me on my right, the one with the LEDs in the wheels (true).


I immediately sensed the stupidity and dropped back, but look at how he's tailgating that car in front of him. Amazing. But is this really such a Buffalonian problem? Morons can be found everywhere there are cars, right? (Yes. The answer is yes. I assure you it is yes.)


And finally this is pulling into my driveway. Apparently one of my neighbors graciously used their snow throwing machine to clear my driveway. There is only a trace amount that has recently fallen. But take a look at the height. Is that 10 feet of snow? More like 10 inches (25cm) max.

If you're from Ocean Beach, California, that may seem like "a lot" but no, this is just normal weather. My house is 10mi/16km from Canada! As mentioned last time, the greater Buffalo region has an astonishing variability in its snowfall, perhaps as much as any other flat place on earth; maybe some other neighborhoods had some problems. I don't know. But why were the freeways near me and coming from the east shut down for four days? It's a little bit embarrassing how famous Buffalo seems to be at not being able to handle its snow.

As I was skiing this morning just before dawn (to catch the snow as cold as I could  —  32.5F/.3C) it occurred to me that Buffalo does not have a proper winter. In a place that has a proper winter temperatures drop below freezing and stay there suffciently for snow to remain until a spring thaw. There is not a spring thaw in Buffalo. There may be five. When snow comes here, often in weird unevenly distributed dumpings, it will usually be gone within the week. It is 40F/4.5C here now. The day after tomorrow the forecast shows 53F/12C. I will be shocked if there is any snow here at all in a week except giant dirty parking lot piles. And that, over and over, is the "winter" here. Why people can't seem to handle it this year is still an open mystery.