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Lake Effect Snow

Lake Effect Snow

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I located your website on the internet. I have been unable to find the answer to questions that are being debated in our office. How far away from a lake must you live to NOT receive lake effect snow? How big a lake must it be? We have a reservoir nearby and people seem to think we receive lake effect snows from them.

Thanks for your help

Sincerely, Kathy A.


This is great, people are emailing us from around the country, how cool! After some emails to Kathy, she lives in Ohio and she's wondering about a local reservoir nearby. I am sorry to say but the reservoir near you is way too small to produce lake effect snow.

One of the biggest ingredients to create lake effect snow is the "fetch" or the distance the wind is moving over the lake. The air needs to have a long fetch to produce the snow. Some will say the fetch has to be about 50 miels but you can get lake effect with a smaller fetch over some smaller lakes. Anywhere from 20 to 50 miles is probably fair game for lake effect. This means the air has to be moving over 20 to 50 miles of lake surface. It is here where the cold air moves over the warm water and picks up moisture to make snow.

Places that are near the Great Lakes get slammed by LES every year, recently in NY state 12 feet of snow fell in only about 9 days time, that's wild! You can lake effect snow really far downstream from the lake too. Towns west of Albany can get hit with the snow from Lake Ontario. West Virginia can also get lake snows. Lake effect bands can travel probably around anywhere from 0 miles to a little over 100 miles from the lake.

Smaller lakes have smaller bands which won't travel as far. So, you need a decent size lake where the air can move over its surface 20 to 50 miles and you can get slammed far away from big lakes.

Answered by KSL Meteorologist Dina Freedman.

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