A winter that had already piled more than 100 inches of snow onto some upstate cities was hanging on with a vengeance Wednesday, delivering heavy snow, high winds and rumbles of thunder under a blizzard warning that reached 150 miles from western into central New York.
One day after temperatures reached spring-like 50s, hundreds of schools, colleges and government offices were shut down and travel advisories were in effect across several western counties. The New York State Thruway banned tandem tractor-trailers from the Albany area to the Pennsylvania border south of Buffalo amid slick roads and 20- to 30-mph winds that gusted to 45 mph.
It was the first time in memory that Buffalo experienced two blizzards, defined by sustained high winds and reduced visibility, in a single season, meteorologists said. The last blizzard was in January.
Between 10 and 24 inches of snow was expected in some areas from the eastern end of Lake Erie to the Adirondacks, with the highest totals forecast for counties bordering the southern shore of Lake Ontario.
“It was great yesterday. I washed my car!” said post office custodian Ed Szymanski, snow hitting his eyeglasses and melting into droplets as he shoveled outside a Buffalo post office Wednesday. He guessed he’d be out three or more times before the end of the day.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for much of upstate.
Andre Lillard, of Buffalo, drove to his office in suburban Amherst and stayed for an hour before being sent home as road conditions and visibility deteriorated. “I lived in Florida for five years. I never quite got used to the heat down there, but when I came back I can’t do cold. My body has just changed,” he said laughing.
Pileups on the Ohio Turnpike involving at least 50 vehicles killed three people and seriously injured a state trooper as the storm swept through the Midwest.
Emergency workers on the busy toll road struggled to reach accidents and stuck vehicles because of snowy conditions and traffic backups. Pileups stretched across a two-mile section in the eastbound lanes of the turnpike between Toledo and Cleveland. Another series of pileups about 10 miles to the east shut down the turnpike’s westbound lanes near Sandusky.
Drivers sat for hours, a few braving the cold to stretch their legs, said Mike Ramella, a salesman from the Cleveland suburb of Westlake.
“I’m just sending emails, still working,” said Ramella, who was in the middle of a seven-mile backup.
A trooper responding to an accident was pinned between vehicles, said the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which confirmed the deaths of the three other people but didn’t immediately have further details. One vehicle lane opened about four hours after the first accident.
Trooper Andrew Clouser, 29, was in serious but stable condition at a Toledo hospital Wednesday night, said Ohio patrol Staff Lt. Anne Ralston.