BUFFALO, N.Y. — A powerful winter storm will arrive in the Northeast on Saturday and the effects will last through early Monday in Western New York. Significant accumulations of powdery snow, strong winds and dangerous wind chills are all looking more likely.

Winter Storm Watches will go into effect Saturday afternoon for all eight counties in Western New York as well as McKean and potter Counties in Pennsylvania. The watch will last through Monday afternoon. During this time, weather conditions will make travel difficult at best, nearly impossible at worst.

The setup

 As of Thursday, the storm was bringing heavy snow to the northern Rockies. 

On Friday, the storm will move into the Great Plains and continue to strengthen. As it passes north of the Gulf of Mexico, it will pick up more moisture and transport it into the Northeast. This sets the table for heavy precipitation and strong winds.

Snow is expected to begin in Western New York late Saturday morning. By Saturday evening the winds will increase and the snow will become heavy. Saturday night into Sunday morning will be the height of the storm for our region. During that time, travel will be slow in a best-case scenario.

If the heaviest band of snow with this storm passes through Western New York, travel could be nearly impossible until later Sunday. 

Storm Track

As the storm evolves, it is looking more like it will shift a little farther to the south. That would keep the heaviest band of snow south of Buffalo, but parts of the Southern Tier and Genesee Valley could still catch snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour at times Saturday night. Snow totals should be in the neighborhood of 8 to 12 inches for the Niagara Frontier including the metro area. The Southern Tier and Genesee Valley could see 12 to 18 inches with Lake Erie and Lake Ontario potentially enhancing snowfall rates at times. Isolated measurements over 18" are a possibility.

Impacts beyond snow

Even if snow totals are on the lower end of those ranges, wind will be a concern Saturday night through Sunday. The snow is expected to be powdery making it very easy to blow and drift around. This will cause very low visibility even during lesser snowfall rates.

Saturday night into Sunday will also bring a dramatic drop in temperatures. Highs may struggle into the teens for a couple of days and wind chills could easily be below zero during that time.

This may be the first of several weather systems that will affect Western New York through next week. In the long-range, weather charts are suggesting a prolonged period of very cold weather settling in and lasting  into early February, at least.