ROCHESTER, N.Y. —With snow piled up waist- and shoulder-high in communities downwind of the Great Lakes, Annette Miller took her usual walk in the woods with her golden retriever Wednesday in search of the solitude and vigor the season offers in spades in upstate New York.
"I love every mood of winter," the 61-year-old retired businesswoman said after tramping for nearly an hour along the Lake Ontario shore in suburban Rochester. "You adjust to it. I'm out in it, my dog gets me out. Otherwise you're stuck in the house for months."
For a fourth straight day, lake-fed storms pounded parts of northwestern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Close to 4 feet of snow have fallen in the Syracuse area since the weekend, and forecasters called for more snow into today.
Dozens of schools in and around Syracuse were closed as police reported numerous accidents on highways and roads. Troopers said an accident involving three tractor-trailers on the New York State Thruway just west of Syracuse closed the highway's westbound lanes for about five hours Tuesday night.
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The National Weather Service said Wednesday morning the most snow — 47 inches — was recorded in suburban Clay. Two other upstate locations had upward of 4 feet by Wednesday morning, the weather service said.
"I've had about seven hours off since Sunday, and that's with four trucks," tow truck driver Clay Russell said Wednesday morning as he helped a woman with a flat tire on Syracuse's snowbound west side. "And it's not even winter yet."
Intense lake-effect snowstorms are typical for late fall and early winter, when cold air rushes over warmer water. The threat is lessened later in the season when ice forms on the lakes.
Mitch Gilt, a weather service meteorologist in Binghamton, said the current weather pattern started out as a low-pressure system that swept through the Great Lakes region before stalling over eastern Canada. It then combined with winds out of the northwest that created the bands of snow blowing off lakes Erie and Ontario.
By Thursday afternoon, between 50 inches and 60 inches of snow will have fallen on some places, he said.
"It's probably going to fall somewhere in the top two or three lake-effect snow events they've had in Syracuse, at least since they've keeping records up at the airport," he said.
The driving conditions along I-90 in the Syracuse area went from "terrible" to "not too bad" in the span of just a couple of hours, according to state police. But given the fickle nature of lake-effect storms, conditions could worsen quickly.
"Call me back in five minutes and it will be different, depending on where the wind direction is coming from," said Sgt. Robin Urbaniak.