Ontario's Niagara Region, Buffalo area prepare for 'intense snow squall' starting tonight

A bulldozer clears the way in West Seneca, N.Y., just outside Buffalo, on Nov. 19, 2014. The area could get up to 1.2 metres of snow this weekend. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News/The Associated Press - image credit)
A bulldozer clears the way in West Seneca, N.Y., just outside Buffalo, on Nov. 19, 2014. The area could get up to 1.2 metres of snow this weekend. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News/The Associated Press - image credit)

Municipalities in Ontario's Niagara Region are preparing for an "intense snow squall" starting this evening.

Fort Erie has already announced some transit service may be affected as the region buckles up for what Environment Canada says may be a dump of 30 to 60 centimetres of snow between Thursday and Sunday.

The governor of neighbouring New York state has declared a state of emergency for several counties in anticipation of a weekend storm.

Environment Canada issued an alert for Niagara Falls, Welland and the Southern Niagara Region, saying "conditions are favourable for a prolonged period of significant lake effect snow squalls off of Lake Erie."

Travel is expected to be "extremely dangerous" under these conditions, it added.

"Visibilities may be reduced to near zero in heavy snow and local blowing snow," said the bulletin, which said there may be a break in the snowfall on Friday. Fort Erie is expected to be hit hardest, it said.

The weather agency said residents should prepare for road closures and consider postponing non-essential travel.

Fort Erie Santa Claus parade cancelled

Fort Erie Transit said Thursday its on-demand service may be affected by the storm over the next two days, with clients seeing delays.

"We may have to cancel partial or full service depending on road conditions," it said in a statement.

"Please allow extra time to get to your destination."

Organizers of the Fort Erie Santa Claus parade, which was set for Saturday, sent a note to participants Thursday saying the event has been cancelled, as recommended by the town's roads department.

"They are not able to accommodate a safe environment for the roads and patrons," the note read. "There are no available weekends to reschedule the parade due to availability of bands/entertainment due to other scheduled parades/events."

Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop told CBC on Thursday afternoon that it could take three or four days to clear the city, depending on the severity of the storm, but that's something the town has managed many times before.

Still, the town has told municipal employees to work from home Friday so services can continue virtually if need be, and Redekop said residents should stay home if possible.

"We want to make sure that residents appreciate that if we do get the storm that's anticipated, that they don't try to go places that they don't need to be because it's safer to make sure that you're at home, you got the resources that you need and that your family is safe," he said.

As for the cancelled Santa parade, Redekop said it will be disappointing for area children.

"It's a shame because we've also had years where we didn't have a Santa Claus parade because of the pandemic. So, it's unfortunate."

Derek Gee/The Buffalo News/The Associated Press
Derek Gee/The Buffalo News/The Associated Press

Niagara Region says it has coated regional roads and bridges in brine to attempt to help melt the snow as it falls.

"Trucks are on standby to salt and plow as needed," the region said in a tweet. "Snow is coming to Niagara and we're ready for it!... Reminder that we take care of regional roads/bridges. Local streets/sidewalks are maintained by your city/town and highways by the province."

Buffalo faces 'potentially life-threatening weather'

Across the U.S. border, in New York state, the governor has placed 11 counties near Lake Erie and the Niagara Region under states of emergency, an area that includes the city of Buffalo.

"The most significant snowfall is expected Thursday and Friday with accumulations of up to four feet [1.2 metres] of snow possible in the Buffalo area," said a news release from Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday.

All commercial traffic was banned from state roads and interstate highways in the area starting at 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

"We all have to do our part to make sure that everyone stays safe during this winter storm — that's why I have declared a State of Emergency for impacted counties, which will free up resources and boost our readiness," Hochul said.

"My administration has been preparing around the clock for this potentially life-threatening weather event, bringing in additional safety personnel and equipment, closing down the New York State Thruway, and activating Emergency Operation Centers.

"I urge all New Yorkers to stay prepared and vigilant over the next few days, making sure to look after vulnerable loved ones and neighbours."

Also on Thursday, because of the potential impact of the storm in the Buffalo region, the National Football League announced the Bills' home game against the Cleveland Browns will be moved to Detroit on Sunday.

The NFL said it made the decision out of safety concerns, and in consultation with the Bills and local and state officials.