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The ‘lake effect’ is for real

If you are a weather watcher, you know all about the lake effect. It’s the phenomenon of heavy snowfall caused by snow clouds passing over water that is warmer than the surrounding air.

If you are on the side of the lake region the wind is blowing away from, like Detroit, you will get normal snowfall. If you are the other side, the leeward side, you may get a ton of snow.

It’s not fair, but the lake effect explains why snow storms hit areas like Cleveland, Ashtabula, Erie and Buffalo so much harder than other areas.

This past Christmas Day, a snow band that stalled over Lake Erie dropped nearly 3 feet of snow on Erie -- 14 inches more snow than the city's had seen in its recorded history.

What does the snow effect mean to you? It means you should stay home or stay sheltered, if you can. This winter has seen a record number of tow truck calls, a record number of abandoned vehicles, and a near-record number of accidents involving cars, trucks, light poles, curbs, plow blades and other objects.

Lake effect snowfalls are not limited to the Great Lakes. The same kind of phenomenon happens over salt water – called the ocean effect. These meteorological extremes occur in areas called snowbelts. These include Lake Erie, the west coast of Japan, Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, Great Salt Lake, the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Baltic Sea, and stretches of the northern Atlantic.

When bad weather causes accidents, victims still have legal recourse. Compensation is possible, when injuries result from negligence. A better course of action, if at all possible, is not to get into your car at all. The storm will pass, and you will be in better shape physically to start digging out.

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