Residents took to social media to post stunning photos of the whiteout, with meteorologists attributing the 58 inches of snow that fell over Christmas Day, Monday, to 5pm on Tuesday to icy winds blowing over the adjoining Lake Erie, one of North America’s Great Lakes.
More snow was expected at a rate of up to an inch or two per hour as residents were warned to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and pack emergency kits including tow ropes, flashlights, shovels and flares for essential travel.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf announced in a statement that the state national guard was “providing high clearance all terrain military vehicles to aid local agencies with medical emergency and law enforcement response.”
According to data from the National Weather Service, the 34 inches of snow that fell on Dec. 25 was the highest the city had ever recorded, eclipsing the previous high of 20 inches on Nov. 22, 1956.
The two-day snowfall of 58 inches, which was still ongoing, also surpassed a previous state record of 44 inches set in Morgantown on March 20-12, 1958.
“The crews are out, but quite simply they can’t keep up with the amount of snow that’s falling,” said Matt Exley, a local emergency official on a Facebook live post.
Erie meanwhile has received 97 inches of snow in December, making it the snowiest month in the city’s history, which usually averages about 100 inches of snow in an entire season.
Residents posted pictures reminiscent of a bleak polar landscape, dubbing the phenomenon #Snowmageddon on Twitter.
Vehicles were buried and visibility was limited in some areas to just a few feet.
By Tuesday night the temperature had plunged to 14 Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius), with the lake-effect snow warning forecast to continue through Wednesday, potentially adding an additional five to 10 inches of snowfall.