Snowbelt

Snowbelt

[snoh-belt]
The snowbelt is a North American region, much of which lies downwind of the Great Lakes, where heavy snowfall is particularly common on predominately eastern and southern shores of the Great Lakes. Near the Great Lakes, lake effect snow is caused by cold air picking up moisture while crossing the lake and then releasing it as snow when the air cools over land. The lakes produce lake effect snow and continuous cloudy skies throughout the winter months, as long as air temperatures are colder than the lake water temperatures.

Well-known snowbelt sections exist southeast of Lake Erie from Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York and south of Lake Ontario stretching roughly from Rochester, New York, to Syracuse, New York, and northward to Watertown, New York. Similar snowbelts exist on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan from Gary, Indiana northward through Western Michigan and Western Northern Michigan to the Straits of Mackinac, and on the eastern and southern shores of Lake Superior from northwest Wisconsin through the northern half of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In Canada, many snowbelt regions exist, particularly off Lake Superior from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and northward to Wawa. Snowbelt regions also exist on the eastern and southern shores of Lake Huron, and Georgian Bay in Ontario from Parry Sound to London, Ontario. NW winds during the winter season cause frequent road closures, especially Hwy. 21 on the shore of Lake Huron and Hwy. 26 from Barrie. The Niagara Peninsula and the northeastern shores of Lake Ontario are especially hard hit by heavy snowfalls when SW winds are predominant.

Lake Erie is the second smallest of the five Great Lakes and the most shallow. It can completely freeze over during winter. Once frozen, lake effect snow over land to the east and south of Lake Erie is temporarily alleviated. This does not end the possibility of a damaging winter storm. The Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977, that struck metropolitan Buffalo, was a direct result of powder snow blown by high winds off Lake Erie, which had frozen earlier than normal. There was, for the region, no significant snowfall during the duration of the blizzard The Lake Erie/Ontario snowbelt has resulted in the rise of the skiing industry, thus lending the region its nickname: ski country.

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