Lake effect snow occurs when cold air moves across relatively warm, unfrozen waters.
As the colder air passes the relatively warm and unfrozen water, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. The air rises, clouds form, and narrow bands of snow produce rates of 2-3+ inches of snow per hour.
Wind direction is also a key component in determining which areas will receive lake effect snow. Heavy snow may be falling in one location, while the sun may be shining just a mile or two away in either direction thanks to these narrow bands of intense snowfall.
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