Armed only with a shovel, Joe Manning searches for his snow buried car this morning in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP photo)
Buffalo hit hard by another round of lake effect snow
Total accumulation could reach 7 feet
By Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press, 12/28/01
BUFFALO, N.Y. A record-breaking, five-day storm that walloped Buffalo with nearly 7 feet of snow blew out of town Friday, and the National Guard headed in to help the city dig out.
"It looks like the metro area is finally going to get its relief," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Reich as the sun broke through dense gray clouds about 3 p.m.
The relentless snowfall has buried cars, landscaping, trash cans and mailboxes under a white blanket so thick it has swallowed Christmas lawn displays while reaching windowsills on homes. Buffalo's airport was closed until Friday evening, along with most major roads.
On Friday, Gov. George Pataki ordered the National Guard to help weary plow crews clean up. U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn, meanwhile, sought financial help from the White House by asking President George Bush to declare a federal state of emergency.
"The president has nicknames for everyone and he calls me the big man from Buffalo. I'm 6-foot-5," Quinn said, "and I'm going to tell him the snow is over the big man's head."
Buffalo is accustomed to towering amounts of snow from "lake effect" storms coming off Lake Erie. But this was huge even by Buffalo standards. Large masses of cold air kept siphoning moisture from the lake and dropping it in bands of snow.
Among the records set:
The 83.5 inches of snow this month 82.3 of it since Monday makes December the snowiest month in Buffalo history. The old record of 68.4 inches had stood since December 1985.
The 35.4 inches of snow that fell from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday ranks as the second-highest 24-hour total. The record is 37.9 inches, Dec. 9-10, 1995.
The 45 inches on the ground at the weather service's airport measuring station Friday eclipsed the 42-inch record set in January 1977. The reading is less than the total snowfall because some snow has melted and the remainder has compacted.
Two deaths have been attributed to the storm, which rumbled in Christmas Eve and delivered 25.2 inches of snow by Christmas morning: Carl Sciortino, 83, of Cheektowaga, died Friday when heavy snow collapsed his carport. Beverly Catanese, 50, of Lewiston, was killed Wednesday in a crash on an icy road in Lewiston, north of Buffalo.
Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said some 50 National Guard trucks and bucketloaders and an undetermined number of troops were being sent from Binghamton, Syracuse and Utica to supplement those stationed here after Pataki declared the area a disaster.
"Fresh bodies, fresh troops if you will, will go along way to helping us stay on top of this," said Giambra, speaking from a storm command center opened at the county's fire training center Friday morning.
Streets Commissioner Paul Sullivan said crews had to go beyond simply plowing the streets. "It's to the point now where we have to remove the snow because the snowbanks are so high," he said. Snow was being trucked to designated dumping areas throughout the city.
Residents shoveled snow from porches and roofs to keep them from buckling under the weight, and police reported several roof collapses throughout the region.
Three hospitals Mercy, Sisters and Kenmore Mercy were asking for volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up staff unable to make it in.
The City of Rochester, about 80 miles to the east, got only a few inches of snow Friday and pitched in by sending a crew of two dozen and 11 trucks to Buffalo.
"By now we've usually sent our plows out a few times, but we haven't sent them out at all," Rochester Mayor William Johnson said. "I know that (Mayor) Tony (Masiello) would do the same for us, but I hope he doesn't have to. We certainly don't want anything like that to happen here."
Despite the see-it-to-believe-it accumulation, the storm did little to rattle the city's snow-seasoned residents. Nor did forecasts predicting more snow for Sunday, though in far lesser amounts.
"It's fun," said Fran Eddy as he waited tables. "This is Buffalo, you have to expect this."
It helped that schoolchildren and many workers were on holiday vacations when the storm struck. Once it arrived, few ventured outside, perhaps taking former Mayor James Griffin's advice during a 1977 blizzard to wait it out with a six-pack of beer and a football game.
As for football, the Buffalo Bills planned to fly out of Niagara Falls or Rochester to get to New York City in time for Sunday's game against the Jets. Hockey's Buffalo Sabres, scheduled to play at Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, scrambled by four-wheel-drive trucks to the Niagara Falls airport for a hastily arranged charter flight.
The storm came after two unusually mild months: the city's first-ever snowless November and 1.2 inches of snow through Dec. 23.
That seemed a distant memory Friday as residents began the backbreaking process of digging out their cars a somewhat fruitless pursuit given the road closures.
As one man cleared snow from his car, a fire engine roared by. Shouted one firefighter: "Where do you think you're gonna go anyway?"