Lake-Effect snow
Lake-effect snow clouds break apart as DOT trucks leave a staging area on November 20, 2014 in the suburb of Hamburg, Buffalo, New York. John Normile/Getty Images

As the temperature tumbles in the north east, parts of New York are getting their first significant snowfall of the season courtesy of a phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. More than 17 inches of snow had hit Binghamton, with the potential for several more inches to arrive in some areas of west-central and northern New York State during Monday.

New York Gov. Chris Cuomo urged residents to be on alert for the weather conditions known as Winter Storm Argos. “With the first major snowfall forecast for parts of the state, I am urging New Yorkers to be prepared and stay safe,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers should take appropriate precautions now, especially if they are traveling. Roads may become hazardous, and I strongly encourage everyone to drive responsibly.”

Lake-effect snow occurs when cold air passes over warmer lake water. As the heat and moisture rises into the air mass, instability is created, leading it to freeze and then condense before being deposited as a snow storm. In this instance, the moisture is coming from Lake Ontario.

“The setup into Monday night favors very narrow and intense lake-effect snow bands that can tap into moisture from the Great Lakes," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. “The result will be a substantial amount of snow over a very localized area.”

In Binghamton, snow has fallen at a rate of one inch an hour, totaling more than 17.5 inches as of early Monday morning – a record single-day amount in the city and already more than half of the total snow recorded throughout the whole of the 2015-16 snow season. Together with the snow, gusts of more than 40mph were recorded.

Travel advisories were issued and scattered power outages were reported. More than 2,000 people were left without electricity in the Rochester area on Monday morning.

Many of the snowfall records in the United States are attributed to lake-effect snow. Lake Ontario was responsible for the 24-hour record, with 49 inches in Watertown, New York, on Nov. 14-15, 1900. More recently, Montague, New York, was deluged by 127 inches of snow in six days in December 2001.