Although lake-effect snow showers can sometimes travel more than 100 miles inland, there are two main areas in northeastern Ohio that get socked with lake-effect snow squalls each winter.
The PRIMARY SNOW BELT gets anywhere from 60 to 110-plus inches of snow per year. It consists of the eastern half of Cuyahoga County, and all of Geauga, Lake and Ashtabula counties. Some of the major municipalites in this area are Euclid, Bedford, Solon, Lyndhurst, Ashtabula, Jefferson, Conneaut, Andover, Chardon, Burton, Chesterland, Chagrin Falls, Madison, Painesville, Mentor, Willoughby and Kirtland.
The SECONDARY SNOW BELT usually gets 40 to 80 inches of snow per winter and consists of the western half of Cuyahoga County, Lorain and Medina counties, plus the portions of Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties north of Interstate 80. It includes the cities of Cleveland, Bay Village, Westlake, Lorain, Strongsville, Oberlin, North Ridgeville, North Olmsted, Brook Park, Medina, Broadview Heights, Brecksville, Brunswick, Twinsburg, Hudson, Aurora, Garrettsville, and North Bloomfield.
Lake-effect snow is unique to only a few areas of the world, including the Great Lakes.
Areas downwind of large bodies of water often receive more snow than the surrounding region because of the interaction of cold air and warm lakes.
Water in the lakes has stored up high amounts of heat energy from the previous summer. This heat is released through evaporation. The cold air blows over the warm waters of the Great Lakes and picks up the evaporated moisture.
As the air rises up over the higher elevations of land downwind of the lakes, it cools further and can’t hold the moisture it has picked up. That moisture condenses, forming clouds and snow over what we know as the “snow belt” areas of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.