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Winter Classic weather

The latest National Weather Service guideance indicates that fans and participants in Tuesday's Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium will have fairly typical weather for Jan. 1.

It looks to be moderately windy, with gusts topping out at 20 mph. Occasional snow is forecast - but it's not expected to snow until later in the afternoon. The high temperature during the afternoon should be right around freezing.

The weather service models show that a "dry slot" should keep precipitation from falling during the early afternoon, when the game will be played.

For a change, the weather looks to be much worse north of Buffalo New Year's Day. A Winter Storm Watch has been posted for Niagara, Orleans and Monroe counties, with accumulations approaching a foot.

-- Jay Bonfatti

Way up North

Looking for a touch of other news on this mostly overcast day, we decided to check in on how Santa Claus is doing at his place.

It being just a few short hours before the deepest day of winter, the elves and reindeer don't have to worry about whether it is sunny or not: they are in the land of the midday darkness and won't see any sun for quite a while.

No sun also equals not much warmth. The Weather Channel reports a bracing North Pole temp of minus 24 degrees, although it "feels like" minus 39. That's BELOW zero.

Who can blame Santa and his team if they linger awhile a few days hence in Honolulu, where temperatures are tending to stay in the 70s, day and night, for the holidays.

--- Melinda Miller

Must Christmas be white?

Now that the "big storm" is behind us (at least for now ), the next big buzz among the local weathercasters is whether we'll have a white Christmas.

(Full disclosure: there's an item about that very thing in today's Latest Local News on our home page.)

Which is why for the next five days, all the dopplers and the weather models and high-tech forecasting science will try to either assure us that yes indeed there will be snow on the ground come Dec. 25, OR most of the snow we have now will melt down to dirty slush.

I'm not sure why we care so much about having a white Christmas (maybe because the Bing Crosby song romanticizes it so much?), but rest assured that morning, noon and night for the next five days there will be  up-to-date information on this timely and critical issue.

Seriously, all I need to know is this: Is the airport open so my kid's plane can land? And, can I make it to my sister's house in Niagara Falls for Christmas dinner?

A simple yes or no will suffice.

-- Susan LoTempio

Great day to catch up

Driving on bumper-to-bumper Transit Road Saturday afternoon, I was struck by the number of cars that had Christmas trees strapped on their hoods. Practically all the cars were loaded up with piles of grocery bags or sacks of Christmas gifts.

Which meant that most of us were frantically getting the errands done on Saturday because we knew we'd be stuck in the house on Sunday.

In fact, Sunday turned out to be the perfect day to catch up on holiday baking and decorating, watching football and wrapping gifts. (And, perhaps, some last-minute online ordering?)

So, despite the doomsday forecast, what we got was not the HUGE storm that some weathercasters predicted, but a gift of time to get caught up on pre-holiday chores.

Of course, later in the winter, we'll feel trapped inside our houses, but for now, Sunday's storm couldn't have been better timed for the holiday-stressed among us.

How did you use the snowy day?

-- Susan LoTempio

Not as bad as expected

When I left work Friday afternoon, forecasters were calling for 16 to 20 inches of snow across Western New York as a result of the storm Saturday night and Sunday.

Initial snow spotter reports indicate that estimate was maybe a little high. Niagara County seemed to get the greatest snowfall, with one spotter in Lockport reporting 18 inches, 15.3 inches recorded in Youngstown and Niagara Falls getting 13 inches.

Much of Erie County ended up getting around or slightly under a foot. The reading at the airport in Cheektowaga was 12.3 inches  Other totals: Lancaster, 12.5; Kenmore, 12.1; Tonawanda 10.5; Colden, 10.5; and Elma, 9.

Cherry Creek and Mayville in Chautauqua County reported just over a foot, as did Perrysburg and South Dayton in Cattaraugus County. The high reading in Allegany County was Friendship at 7.5 inches.

-- John F. Bonfatti

Snowfall totals

Here are a few of the snowfall totals from Thursday's storm:

In Erie County, Hamburg had 5.8 inches, Alden and Williamsville 4.5 inches, Cheektowaga 4.4 inches, Clarence and Grand Island 4 inches.

In Niagara County, two spotters in North Tonawanda reported 3.7 and 3 inches, respectively, while spotters in Lockport recorded 3.5 inches.

Perrysburg in Cattaraugus County had the highest area total at 7 inches, while nearby South Dayton for six inches.

Snowfall also tended to be higher in Wyoming County, with six inches reported at Perry, Portageville and Warsaw. Albion, in Orleans County, recorded half that.

-- John F. Bonfatti

One-Two Combination

The snow began falling in Buffalo shortly before 9 a.m., filling the sky and quickly covering the ground.

Perhaps six inches are expected today north of a line from Buffalo to Syracuse. Perhaps 10 inches were expected south of that line, a little closer to the storm track.

But forecasters believe this storm will pale in significance to the Nor'easter that will leave a thick coat of snow along the Atlantic Seaboard this weekend. The Weather Service said this morning that the threat of heavy snow Saturday night into Sunday morning is increasing for upstate New York as well.

First things first. If you're out and about, especially in the Southern Tier, how bad is the going today?

-- John F. Bonfatti

Calling all weather watchers

If you're a weather watcher and want to help the National Weather Service, check out www.cocorahs.org.

CoCoRaHS stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. Started at Colorado State University, the network uses amateur weather watchers to help provide very specific precipitation information to scientists, community officials, county emergency managers and drought monitors, as well as the general public.

Basically, network members agree to purchase a standardized rain gauge (available through the CoCoRsHS web site for $22 plus shipping) and report measurements of rain, hail and snow as those forms of precipitation fall. There is a small amount of training, which can be done online.

NWS Meteorologist Steve McLaughlin is coordinating the program locally. "It's a nice little hobby," he said. "We've got about 30 people signed up in Western New York, just from the note on our Web site."

In some areas, the CoCoRaHS network has been combined with existing snow spotter networks, but McLaughlin said that won't be the case here. At least initially, the 100 or so snow spotters who measure snow across Western New York will be seperate from the network, although McLaughlin said some of those who have signed up for CoCoRaHS are also snow spotters.

-- John F. Bonfatti

Icy Memories

Watching the Zamboni create a fresh sheet of ice at the Rotary Rink downtown transported me for a moment to my childhood days, when pretty much every boy in our neighborhood gathered after school at one of the numerous frozen ponds for some spirited pick-up hockey games.

There was really only one rule: no lifting. Theoretically, this meant no shots above the ankle, but eventually, as more kids got shin pads, it meant no shots above the knee. Inevitably, though, somebody would either accidentally or intentionally violate the rule. Almost inevitably, when that happened, gloves were dropped and punches were thrown.

The recent frosty weather has already left some smaller area ponds iced over, although maybe the ice isn't thick enough to skate on yet. Give it a little time.

Given all the organized youth hockey today, it makes me wonder whether kids still do play outdoors, unsupervised on small ponds tucked away in the woods and fields of Western New York.

-- John F. Bonfatti

Chill out, TV weather guys

Note to local TV stations:

   It's December in Buffalo. It snows. It's cold. It's windy. And, not every snowfall is a WEATHER EVENT.

  Cease and desist with those alarming crawls across our TV screens, will you please?

You're making such a big deal out of every single snowfall this early in the season that when the BIG ONE hits, no one will pay attention to your warnings.

Lighten up, will ya?

Check out my colleague Dave Valenzuela's take on the weather guys on the Pop Stand blog.

Also in response to the comment from Don Paul (assuming it's the real Don Paul from Channel 4): Of course you should inform the public about National Weather Service warnings and advisories.  However, there is a difference between alerting us and scaring us. There's also the issue of overkill, as in airing those crawls all evening long.

-- Susan LoTempio

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