National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Winter 2000 - 2001 

The first winter of the new century will long be remembered for its persistence and longevity. It began early with record lake snows around Buffalo and near Lake Erie in November and continued with brutal cold and daily lake snows in December and early January before easing off some from mid January through February. It returned with a vengeance during March with persistent cold and frequent synoptic snows. Snow still covered most of the higher elevations and east of Lake Ontario as April began.

Season totals were generally the highest in the seven year history of our network... eclipsing the previous record of 1995-96. Amounts topped 300" across the Tug Hill...about 50" more than usual...but exceeded 200" even at lakeshore areas of Oswego County. Over 200" fell over higher elevations from southern Erie county to Chautauqua county...with the Sherman-Stockton area catching over 250". The Buffalo area had their second greatest snowfall ever with 158" at the Airport...and 100-120" in the city and northern suburbs. 120-150" fell across the South Towns. Even Niagara County caught 80-110". Around Rochester...110-140" fell...with even more along the lakeshore from Webster to Ontario. 70-90" fell over the mid Genesee Valley (most in March). Even the St. Lawrence Valley received 80-100" and Toronto area close to 70".

Despite the very high totals, there were very few large was the frequency and persistence that was the big story. Snow covered the ground on 100-120 days even at lower elevations...about double the norm. Buffalo had their greatest number of days with snow cover in at least 50 years. All in all, a very long and active winter.

Brief monthly recaps follow...

After a very mild and dry first two weeks...November turned out to be a very active and even historical snow month across western and central New York. It was Buffalo's snowiest November ever...and featured two large lake effect events. The snowfall was entirely the result of the lake effect process so much of the Genesee Valley and finger Lakes region caught only a few inches. On the other hand, local amounts of over three feet were reported from the higher elevations of the western southern tier...and well as the immediate Buffalo area. The Tug Hill also caught upwards of three feet. The bulk of the snow fell during the period 18-24th. The first storm dumped nearly a foot on Buffalo...while the second massive storm on the 20th was extremely intense with plenty of thunder and lightning. Both of these were on a southwest flow and focused on the most heavily populated portion of the region. The snowbands shifted south on 21-22nd and dumpred over two feet over the southern tier and Oswego county. More than a foot also fell over Oswego County...a harbinger of the winter to come. Finally...a northwest flow brought a few inches to the Rochester area on the 22nd. Snowfall varied widely across the Buffalo area...with 45" at the Airport...about 30-35" downtown, 15-20" across the South Towns and Tonawanda...but less than 6 inches north of Niagara Falls.

December was one of the snowiest months ever seen across western and central New York. Areas around Buffalo...already deluged with snow in late November...had record amounts of snowfall for so early in the season by the end of the month. But...unlike November...the entire region shared in the heavy snowfall during December...especially later in the month. The month actually began with a few mild dry days, but cold air surged into the region from the southwest on the 5-6th and set up a very heavy lake effect storm well north of its usual position...with over a foot falling across Niagara County as well as northern Jefferson county. Conditions calmed down for a few days...then a major storm moved directly over the lower lakes region with mostly rain in western NY...but heavy snow from Chicago to Detroit to Toronto. Lake effect followed with damaging winds during the next few days in the wake of the storm. The month's only real thaw occurred on 16-17th ahead of another midwestern low and most of the previous snow cover melted...but then winter roared in for the last half of the month with almost daily snowfalls and well below freezing temperatures. Severe lake snows affected areas south of Buffalo and across the Tug Hill from 16-22nd...then flow turned more northwest and very frequent moderate to heavy snows fell south of Lake Ontario from Rochester to Oswego County. In fact...over 30 inches fell in the period 25-28th over Oswego County. Finally...backlash from the coastal storm brought heavy snows to counties near Lake Ontario on 30-31st. Total monthly snowfall exceeded 100 inches over portions of Oswego County and was over 70 inches from Wayne to Lewis counties...including Syracuse. Over 70 inches fell in ski country south of Buffalo. A large part of the region caught over 40 inches...with even usually snow sparse areas such as Niagara and Toronto catching over 30 inches. Only southeast Cattaraugus and Allegany counties had little snow. This is because nearly all of the snow so far this season has been of the "Lake Effect" variety...with very little general or "synoptic" snowfall.

January began with a continuation of the rugged conditions which prevailed across all of western and central New York through late November and December. A general northwest flow of arctic air brought daily snowfalls of an inch or two to most areas through the first week or so...but heavier snows of up to a foot were reported on the 9-10th southeast of Lake Ontario as a trof and frontal system combined with lake moisture. The region finally got a break during the 11-14th period with some sunshine and thawing temperatures. Conditions alternated between mild thaws and brief cold spells for the next couple of weeks, but no significant storms affected the region. The area missed a coastal storm on 20-21st but lake effect backlash dropped 3-6" east of Lake Ontario. Some locally heavy lake effect snow did smother portions of Oswego county on the 27-28th...but the month ended mild and rainy. Overall...January turned out mild and fairly dry, with near to slightly below normal snowfall. There were no major storms.

February was very quiet benign month across western and central New York. Overall it was mild and fairly dry with below normal snowfall. There were no major storms.  The first week brought seasonably cold conditions and small daily snowfalls and snow showers. A deep storm moving by to our west caused a brief but strong thaw on 9-10th when temps reached 60 in western areas, including a record high at Rochester. Rivers and creeks rose to bankful and there was some ice jam flooding around Buffalo. The warm front which preceded this system brought some locally heavy snow from the Toronto area to Syracuse and north. Another system moved up to our west on 14th but this was mainly rain in the west...but 4-8" of wet snow fell east of Lake Ontario. Colder weather followed with some lake effect from Wayne to Lewis Counties on 16-17th. Another deep storm passed by to our west on 25th with a brief strong thaw once again for our area. High winds followed. Colder weather followed to end the month with lake snows...heavy over Oswego County on the final day. Most of western NY lost its snow cover for a week or two in late February...but areas from Oswego county northward kept a very dense snowpack.

After a fairly benign January and February, winter roared back across western and central New York during March. The month featured below normal temperatures, above normal precipitation, and excessive snowfall. Unlike earlier in the winter when the bulk of the snow came from the "Lake effect" process, the snowfall in March was nearly all of the "synoptic" or general variety as a number of low pressures passed nearby. As a result, areas in the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes region which had largely escaped the snow earlier in the winter, got blitzed by very heavy snows during the month. The action began with a storm on the 4-6th. This was the storm which was "hyped" along the east coast, but the heaviest snow actually fell across most of New England and New York...all the way back into our region. It was an extended snowfall...48-60 hours so the totals did not cause too much trouble...but amounts of well over a foot were common from the Genesee Valley eastward. Another long duration snowfall dropped 6 to 12 inches throughout the area on the 16-17th, with other substantial snowfalls on the 22nd and 30th. Monthly totals were generally double to triple the norm everywhere. The lowest snowfall was as usual, over Niagara and northern Jefferson counties...but even there we caught 20-30 inches. Over 40" fell over most of the Finger Lakes area and Genesee Valley. Snow covered the ground most of the month, even at low elevations...which is highly unusual for March.