It’s not even Thanksgiving, but it will look a lot like Christmas in Western New York this weekend. A blizzard is in the forecast ahead of the Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills Week 11 game, setting up the first NFL snow game of the 2022 season.
Browns vs. Bills Forecast calls for NFL Snow Game
The headline from AccuWeather?
Feet of snow to bury Buffalo as potentially historic lake-effect event looms.
Not inches. Feet. As in multiple feet.
The white stuff is expected to start falling overnight Tuesday into Wednesday and basically go through Saturday, with the system finally making its way out of the region by Sunday morning.
As much as six feet are predicted in some parts of Western New York.
So this isn’t just setting up as the storm of the year, but potentially the storm of the decade. A winter storm watch has already been announced for Erie County — home of Highmark Stadium.
“These early-season events can be potent, as lake water temperatures are still quite mild compared to the middle to the latter part of winter,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz explained on the forecasting company’s website.
“The heaviest snowfall is expected to occur downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in New York and Lake Huron in Ontario. Several feet of snow can occur where snow bands persist over the same location for an extended period of time,” Benz said.
Sunday’s game — which is essentially a must-win for the free-falling Browns — could be impacted in a number of ways.
Obviously, the on-field product will be affected if footing and visibility are bad. Winds are expected to exceed 15 mph Sunday afternoon. But the storm also could cause major logistical headaches.
The Browns need to make the 180-mile trek around Lake Erie, and a blizzard could conceivably shut down airports and even roads. Even if both teams can get to the stadium, stadium employees, public safety officials, and fans might not be able to.
It’s entirely possible that the league determines a game simply should not be played in Western New York this week. If so, there is precedent for a venue change. The NFL moved Bills-Jets to Detroit in November 2014 due to a similar storm.
That system — which featured snow drifts as tall as 10 feet — left thousands of people stranded and at least 10 dead.
Ford Field has no scheduled events this weekend, so that venue would presumably be an option again.
There was also a game between the Colts and Bills in 2017 that’s come to be known as Snowvertime. At least eight inches of snow fell during the game, which the Bills won 13-7 in OT.