A look back on Buffalo's historic 2014 'Snowvember' storms that left 7 feet of snow in some spots

The snowstorms of Nov. 17-20, 2014, later dubbed "Snowvember," were a one-two punch of storms that had some areas just south of Buffalo digging out from 5-7 feet of snow, while some areas a few miles away received just a few inches of snow.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A multi-day, lake-effect snowstorm threatening Buffalo and surrounding areas this weekend is happening on the eighth anniversary of one of the greatest snow events in the region's history.

The snowstorms of Nov. 17-20, 2014, later dubbed "Snowvember" or the Buffalo "Snow Blitz" were a one-two punch of storms that had some areas just south of Buffalo digging out from 5-7 feet of snow, while some areas a few miles away received just a few inches.


"The epic November 17-19th 2014 lake effect event will be remembered as one of the most significant winter events in Buffalo's snowy history," the National Weather Service office in Buffalo wrote, referencing the dates of the first storm.

The storm was blamed for 14 deaths, hundreds of collapsed roofs and other structural damage, and left thousands of drivers suddenly stranded on impassable roads as heavy snow piled up in minutes -- with snowfall rates reaching as much as 3-6 inches per hour. Power outages spread across the region as trees succumbed to the weight of the snow, toppling into power lines.

The first storm was enough to cripple the region. Snow began falling around Buffalo on the evening of Nov. 17, with even some thundersnow tossed in for extra drama. The 15-to-20-mile band of snow drifted north and south across Buffalo before settling in on the southern side of town, with snow rates reaching 3 inches per hour -- though some areas had periods of snowfall rates reaching 6 inches per hour, according to the NWS.


As the sun dawned on the 18th, about 12 hours later, areas within the snow band already had 1-3 feet of snow, with the heaviest snowfall on the northern edge of the band.
With some snow plows stuck and those free focused on plowing a few main roads for emergency vehicles, travel became nearly impossible. A 132-mile stretch of Interstate 90, known as the New York State Thruway, was closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania border. Several other highways were shut down.

Meanwhile, farther north, a second band of lake-effect snow off Lake Ontario brought blizzard conditions Monday night into Tuesday with 1-2 feet of snow combined with 40-55 mph winds around Watertown.

Heavy snow continued inside the band for all of Tuesday, with 35-mph wind near Buffalo and snow totals reaching 4-5 feet by the end of the day. Residents described a sharp edge to the snow, with whiteout conditions inside the band but blue skies and hardly any snow outside the band. 


"That intense band of snow we did see south of the metro area – it was so striking that north of the band there was blue sky, but people would see the north band and call it a ‘wall of snow’," said FOX Weather Meteorologist Jane Minar.

The National Weather Service described one street as having several feet of snow in one location but just a few inches on the ground 2 miles to the north. 

If you look at Buffalo's all-time record snows, 2014 is strangely missing from the list because Buffalo's airport – the official measuring station – received just 6.2 inches through the event. Lancaster – just 4 miles away – received 63 inches.

Buffalo Greatest Snowstorms
(FOX Weather)


Finally, the band let up Wednesday morning as it drifted to the north and rapidly weakened.  

There was no rest for the weary, as a second lake-effect event late on Nov. 19 and into Nov. 20 dropped another 1-4 feet of snow over nearly the same area and compounded rescue and recovery efforts, according to the NWS.


"Storm totals from the two storms peaked at nearly 7 feet, with many areas buried under 3-4 feet of dense snowpack by the end of the event," the NWS wrote.

Hopes for snow to melt went too far in the other direction. Four days after the event, the temperature in Buffalo soared, reaching 65 degrees, according to NOAA. The warm temperatures were accompanied by rain, causing a significant amount of the snow to melt rapidly, resulting in widespread flooding in the region.

Despite the massive overall impacts, meteorologists said the event was well forecast. A Lake-Effect Snow Watch went into effect 56 hours before the snow began, with a warning issued more than a day in advance with forecast snow totals of 2-3 feet amid potential snowfall rates of 3-5 inches per hour.