Jan 13, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Winter storm prompts state of emergency in N.Y., pushing back Buffalo Bills game

Flooding in Massachusetts

Ocean water floods Pear Avenue in Revere, Mass., on Saturday. Photo: Joseph Prezios/AFP via Getty Images

A powerful storm that hit the central and eastern parts of the country led officials to move Sunday's NFL playoff game in Buffalo, N.Y., between the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, to Monday.

Driving the news: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Friday, with the storm expected to bring life-threatening conditions and power outages Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

  • "I've been in communication with @NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the dangerous conditions in Buffalo this weekend," Hochul said in an X post.
  • "In consultation with our emergency response teams, @BuffaloBills leadership, and the NFL, the Bills game will be postponed to 4:30 pm Monday."

Details: New York's state of emergency was issued for Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego and Wyoming counties.

  • The announcement warned of strong winds, freezing temperatures, power outages and life-threatening conditions starting Saturday. The state of emergency also banned travel for empty and tandem trucks and trailers starting Saturday at 9 a.m. in western New York.
  • A full travel ban in Erie County will go into effect at 9 p.m., Hochul said on X. "Travel is going to be extremely dangerous in Western New York this weekend," she said.

What's next: The NWS forecast office in Buffalo expects lake effect snow to begin Saturday night and become intense through Sunday.

  • The snow bands, combined with winds gusting to 60 mph at times, can produce whiteout conditions, and they will oscillate north and south at times depending on the wind direction.
  • As of Saturday morning, the heaviest amounts were forecast to be located in the city of Buffalo inland to the Buffalo airport, with two feet or more likely."
  • Travel in lake effect bands will be extremely difficult, to impossible at times," the NWS stated in a forecast discussion.

Separately, the Miami Dolphins are also facing frigid conditions when they take on the Chiefs in Kansas City, with snow and icy conditions already leading to crashes on Kansas City interstates. It could be one of the coldest games in NFL history, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

In New England, the National Weather Service for Portland and Gray, Maine reported that water levels officially exceeded an all-time record of 14.17 feet.

  • "We're expecting water levels to near record with major coastal flooding along the coast of New Hampshire and Maine," the weather service said.
  • "Stay away from rising water and be prepared for flooded coastal roads."
  • Flooding was reported Saturday morning in York County, Maine. "Dangerous flooding is happening now & will worsen with high tide," the York County Emergency Management Agency said.

Thought bubble: This is an ideal setup for extremely heavy lake effect snow, with an intense low-pressure center over western Quebec causing southwesterly winds to blow Arctic air across the entire length of Lake Erie, Axios senior climate reporter Andrew Freedman writes.

  • Buffalo suffered a devastating snowfall disaster last year. Officials are working to prevent any fatalities in this event by implementing lessons learned from that experience.

Go deeper: Extreme weather alerts cover every state as bomb cyclone intensifies

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