Was that really a blizzard on Wednesday?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – On News 4’s Facebook page, there were a few commenters who were on the fence as to whether Wednesday’s storm was actually a blizzard.

The National Weather Service issued the blizzard warning and verifies the storm. According to Dave Zaff, Science Officer at the National Weather Service at Buffalo, “a blizzard is winds greater than 35 MPH sustained or gusts, and visibility less than a quarter mile in snow. Those two scenarios have to be met for three hours or more.”

The blizzard on Wednesday did meet the criteria, but many people remember worse storms, and there’s always bound to be some comparison.

If you have lived any length of time in this area, you know that each storm is different. Sometimes the storm is widespread, while other times it’s a localized lake effect storm.

“The 1977 blizzard, there was one in 1982, one in 1985, those three events were all strong lake effect blizzards,” Zaff said.

And the blizzard warning criteria has changed over the years. In the past, it also took into account temperature.

Zaff wouldn’t rule out the need for a greater distinction between storms so that people know what they’re getting. Will it be a blizzard like that of 1977 or more like the one on March 12?

“If you look at some of our statements from the January 2014 event, we were using life threatening and particularly dangerous situation phrases,” Zaff explained.

And to set the record straight, this wasn’t the first time that Buffalo has had two blizzards during a winter. News 4’s meteorologist Mike Cejka searched through the weather records and found it also happened during the winters of 1904, 1936, 1942, and 1977.

With an El Nino developing this year, which is a swath of abnormally warm sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, will we be talking a blizzard next year?

Zaff explained, “El Nino has an interesting impact, particularly on the desert southwest and into California. But once you start getting over here, it’s harder to forecast what’s going on.”

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