Lake-effect snow to bury the Great Lakes into this weekend

by Faith Eherts for AccuWeather.com

A storm moving off the coast of New England during the end of the workweek will usher colder, northwesterly winds into the northeastern United States, marking the beginning of the next lake-effect snow event.

A system moving through the Northeast on Thursday will bring widespread precipitation to most of the Eastern Seaboard. While much of it will fall as rain, a mix of rain and snow is expected throughout the mid-Atlantic, changing completely over to snow in northern New England and the Great Lakes region.

Colder air will spill into the northern U.S. behind this system on a brisk northwest wind.

RELATED: 10 of the biggest snowstorms in history

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10 of the biggest snowstorms in history
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10 of the biggest snowstorms in history

10. The Knickerbocker Storm of 1922

View of a car buried in snow during the so-called Knickerbocker Storm, a blizzard that dropped 28 inches of snow on Washington DC, January 28, 1922. The storm, which also affected a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard, was named after the collapse of DC's Knickerbocker Theatre, caused by the excess weight of the snow on the structure's roof, which resulted in 98 deaths and 113 injuries; later, both the building's owner and architect committed suicide.

(Photo by Herbert A. French/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

9. Blizzard Of 1888

A man stands by a snow hut, after the Great Blizzard of 1888, with U.S. Capitol in background, Washington, D.C. According to History.com, 55 inches of snow piled up in some areas and hundreds of people were killed.

(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

8. The Blizzard of 1996

The Blizzard of '96 was a severe nor'easter that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast with up to 4 feet of wind-driven snow from January 6 to January 8, 1996. It is one of only two snowstorms to receive the top rating of 5, or 'Extreme', on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. Looking west down Penn. Ave from the US Capitol during the Blizzard.

(Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

7. 2008 Blizzard in Tibet

Journeying outside of the Unites States, Tibet got a surprise storm that lasted 36 hours and dropped upwards of five feet of snow causing buildings to collapse and at least seven deaths

(Photo credit: Getty)

6. 1959 storm on Mount Shasta

Number six is the storm on Mount Shasta in California in 1959 which unloaded 189 inches of snow on the locals and is considered the largest snowfall from a single storm in North America according to NOAA.

(Photo by Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

2. Blizzard of 1977

At number two is the blizzard of '77 in Buffalo, New York. Powerful and sustained winds created massive snow drifts.

(Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images)

5. Blizzard of 1971

Next is the Eastern Canadian Blizzard of 1971. It is said the event closed down the Montreal Forum, canceling a Montreal Canadiens hockey game, something that hasn't occurred since the flu epidemic of 1918.

(Photo by Dave Norris/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

4. New England Blizzard of 1978

At number four is the New England Blizzard of 1978. Stalling over New England, this storm struck during the day, dropping over 27 inches of snow and stranding many at schools, businesses and others in their cars.

(Photo by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

3. The Great Snow of 1717

Then there was the Great Snow of 1717 over the New England Area. With five feet of snow already on the ground, around four more fell on top of that creating drifts as tall as 25 feet, burying entire houses.

(Photo via Getty Images)

1. Blizzard of 1967

But the storm to top them all is the Blizzard of 1967. Laying waste to the Midwest, this storm took 76 lives, set the record snowfall for Chicago with 23 inches and was preceded by a severe tornado outbreak with temperatures in the 60's.

(Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

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This chilly Canadian air moving over the unfrozen Great Lakes will combine to create plenty of lake-effect snow downwind of the lakes.

"Lake-effect snow occurs when cold air much colder than the surface waters of the Great Lakes blows over the warmer lake waters," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott.

As long as winds persist from the west or northwest, so will the lake-effect snow machine; in this case it looks to be through the end of the weekend.

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"A narrow but high-intensity lake-effect snow band can develop and dump feet of snow in locations where it persists for hours, or even days, on end," said Elliott.

Both the extensive time frame and intensity of this event will result in up to 4 feet of snow in some areas, particularly in parts of southeastern Ontario, Michigan, northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York.

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"From Thursday through Monday, some residents downwind of Lake Ontario may be measuring snowfall in yards, instead of feet," said Elliott.

Much of the affected area will accumulate upwards of a foot of snow by Sunday evening.

Even those outside the heaviest snow bands will find shoveling futile before Monday evening.

"While the heaviest snowfall is expected to occur from Friday night through Sunday morning, more scattered but still locally intense snowfall bands are expected throughout the entire period," said Elliot.

Several major roadways will be impacted by this widespread and long-lasting snowy weather, including interstates 81, 80, 90 and 75 where they pass through areas downwind of the Great Lakes.

RELATED: Great Lakes almost completely frozen

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Anyone traveling even short distances through this region over the weekend should take precautions or avoid travel altogether.

"In just a few miles, visibility can drop from over 10 miles to just a few feet in the heaviest lake-effect snow bands," said Elliott.

"Roadways can go from clear to totally snow covered in just a few hundred yards, and the blinding visibilities greatly heighten the risk for motor vehicle accidents and multi-car pileups."

Elliott also explained that it is best to reduce speeds significantly and use four-wheel drive, if possible, when driving in snowy weather.

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Traffic will be snarled and buildings will be slowly buried through the beginning of next week before the snow tapers off.

"A weak storm system will move through the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes from Monday night through Wednesday, bringing a temporary lull in the lake-effect snowfall," said Elliott.

While a similar event is possible later next week, a repeat of this upcoming weekend is not expected.

"The good news is that this event should not be as intense or last as long," said Elliott.

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