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FIRST LOOK: Dangerous travel looking increasingly likely for Sunday’s Bills game

todayJanuary 12, 2024 2

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January football in Orchard Park is no stranger to cold, wind and heavy snow. This Sunday will feature all three. We’re becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of difficult to dangerous travel conditions to/from Orchard Park Sunday. Take note, if you have tickets, this is a situation you’re going to need to monitor closely. I’m certain the NFL is doing the same. Let’s set the table for how we think this plays out, both with knowns and still unknowns.

SATURDAY: A powerful area of low pressure will be tracking into the region, changing rain over to snow. This will begin the slow process of an intense band of snowfall organizing off of Lake Erie. While this is happening, strong wind gusts will be ramping up from Buffalo to Rochester. This will be the initial weather headline with WSW gusts approaching 60 mph at times. This will lay the groundwork for a Saturday & Saturday night of downed branches and trees and another round of fresh power outages (this time with much colder ambient air if the heat goes off).

SUNDAY: While still windy, immediate weather concerns start shifting from damage/outages to the exact placement of an intense band of lake effect snow. Historically warm lake waters & favorable atmospheric conditions will produce a band of heavy snow that will likely flutter around the Buffalo area all day. This band will be long, extended many tens of miles from west to east but quite narrow from north to south. As is typical with such setups, a sharp gradient from all-or-nothing is generated within a span of just a few miles wherever this band decides to set up shop.

This is where the unknowns come in. While we know this band will be in the general vicinity of Buffalo and Orchard Park, it is still unclear EXACTLY where this thing is going to be any any given hour of the day. Wherever it is, expect snow rates of 1-3″/hour being easily achievable. Winds still gusting north of 40 mph will result in whiteout and near blizzard conditions at times.

TRAVEL EXPECTATIONS: First off, it’s entirely possible the Bills game is played in blinding snow. It’s also entirely possible the game is almost entirely dry with even a few peeks of sunshine with the core of the band either just north or south of the stadium. I’m not sure that’s really the focus here. That intense band will be lurking in the general vicinity. That means there will be a large chunk of people, likely tens of thousands, who will have to drive through this thing to get to Orchard Park. And also to head back home. Within this narrow band, travel will be difficult to dangerous (if not impossible). That strong wind and very cold air will tag team to create blowing and drifting, further reducing visibility.

If that band does indeed settle over Highmark Stadium for much of Sunday, we’re going to funnel tens of thousands of people into the same place at the same time. That’s a recipe for trouble & it’s a reasonable solution that you need to plan for if you have tickets.

Each lake effect event features a best-case, worst-case & multiple scenarios in between. Our best case is a Sunday where travel is a headache, but do-able. Our worst-case is a situation where it would seem outright irresponsible to attempt to fill Highmark Stadium with people who have to drive there through near blizzard conditions. In my opinion, the NFL has a decision on their hands. Regardless of what they elect to do or not do, you have some decisions to make regarding how to safely get to & from Orchard Park to watch this game.

​ January football in Orchard Park is no stranger to cold, wind and heavy snow. This Sunday will feature all three. We’re becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of difficult to dangerous travel conditions to/from Orchard Park Sunday. Take note, if you have tickets, this is a situation you’re going to need to monitor closely. I’m certain the NFL is doing the same. Let’s set the table for how we think this plays out, both with knowns and still unknowns.

SATURDAY: A powerful area of low pressure will be tracking into the region, changing rain over to snow. This will begin the slow process of an intense band of snowfall organizing off of Lake Erie. While this is happening, strong wind gusts will be ramping up from Buffalo to Rochester. This will be the initial weather headline with WSW gusts approaching 60 mph at times. This will lay the groundwork for a Saturday & Saturday night of downed branches and trees and another round of fresh power outages (this time with much colder ambient air if the heat goes off).

SUNDAY: While still windy, immediate weather concerns start shifting from damage/outages to the exact placement of an intense band of lake effect snow. Historically warm lake waters & favorable atmospheric conditions will produce a band of heavy snow that will likely flutter around the Buffalo area all day. This band will be long, extended many tens of miles from west to east but quite narrow from north to south. As is typical with such setups, a sharp gradient from all-or-nothing is generated within a span of just a few miles wherever this band decides to set up shop.

This is where the unknowns come in. While we know this band will be in the general vicinity of Buffalo and Orchard Park, it is still unclear EXACTLY where this thing is going to be any any given hour of the day. Wherever it is, expect snow rates of 1-3″/hour being easily achievable. Winds still gusting north of 40 mph will result in whiteout and near blizzard conditions at times.

TRAVEL EXPECTATIONS: First off, it’s entirely possible the Bills game is played in blinding snow. It’s also entirely possible the game is almost entirely dry with even a few peeks of sunshine with the core of the band either just north or south of the stadium. I’m not sure that’s really the focus here. That intense band will be lurking in the general vicinity. That means there will be a large chunk of people, likely tens of thousands, who will have to drive through this thing to get to Orchard Park. And also to head back home. Within this narrow band, travel will be difficult to dangerous (if not impossible). That strong wind and very cold air will tag team to create blowing and drifting, further reducing visibility.

If that band does indeed settle over Highmark Stadium for much of Sunday, we’re going to funnel tens of thousands of people into the same place at the same time. That’s a recipe for trouble & it’s a reasonable solution that you need to plan for if you have tickets.

Each lake effect event features a best-case, worst-case & multiple scenarios in between. Our best case is a Sunday where travel is a headache, but do-able. Our worst-case is a situation where it would seem outright irresponsible to attempt to fill Highmark Stadium with people who have to drive there through near blizzard conditions. In my opinion, the NFL has a decision on their hands. Regardless of what they elect to do or not do, you have some decisions to make regarding how to safely get to & from Orchard Park to watch this game. Read More NewsRochesterFirst  

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todayJanuary 12, 2024 2


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