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Dangerous lake-effect snow wallops northern New York state

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Residents of northern New York state were digging out Saturday morning from a dangerous lake-effect snowstorm that had dropped nearly 6 feet of snow in some areas and caused three deaths.

The Buffalo metro area was hit particularly hard, with some areas south of the city receiving more than 5 feet of snow by early Saturday. About 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of the city, the town of Natural Bridge, near the Fort Drum Army base, reported just under 6 feet.

The National Weather Service predicted partial sunshine in some areas but more snow showers through Sunday evening before mixing with rain by Monday.

The inundation forced the National Football League to move Sunday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns to Detroit from the Bills’ home stadium in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted that two people died “associated with cardiac events related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing.” A third person – a snowplow driver in the town of Hamlet, Indiana – was killed Friday when his plow slid off the pavement and rolled over, the Starke County Sheriff’s Department. Hamlet is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Lake Michigan.

The storm’s effects varied widely in the region due to the peculiarities of lake-effect storms, which are caused by frigid winds picking up moisture from warmer lakes and dumping snow in narrow bands. Some areas of Buffalo were battered by blowing, heavy snow off Lake Erie while mere miles away, residents only had to contend with a few inches.

Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Thursday for parts of western New York, including communities along the eastern ends of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The declaration covers 11 counties, with all vehicles banned from a stretch of Interstate 90.

Buffalo has experience with dramatic lake-effect snowstorms, few worse than the one that struck in November 2014. That epic storm dumped 7 feet (2 meters) of snow on some communities over three days, collapsing roofs and trapping motorists in more than 100 vehicles on a lakeside stretch of the New York State Thruway.

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