BUFFALO -- A rare early-October snowstorm that buried parts of the Great Lakes region under as much as 2 feet of snow was blamed yesterday for at least three deaths in New York State, widespread blackouts, and stranded travelers.
The Erie County Health Department said two people died in traffic accidents -- one in Niagara County and the other in the town of Lancaster -- and another died after being hit by a falling tree limb while shoveling in Amherst.
One of the deaths was a teenager who was walking in Niagara County when struck by a car. The other fatal crash was a two-car accident, according to Dr. Anthony Billittier, the Erie County health commissioner.
A state of emergency was in effect in Buffalo yesterday as cleanup from the destructive storm began.
``I thought it was kind of pretty but eerie," said Ann Goff, who walked to her job at a supermarket at 2:30 a.m.
Some 391,000 homes and businesses lost power.
The snow, delivered in a fury of thunder and lightning, blanketed Buffalo and surrounding areas Thursday night and early yesterday. A 105-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway was closed for hours and food and water were delivered by snowmobile to stranded motorists.
Giambra said many municipal trucks were still working to remove leaves on Thursday and didn't have plows attached when the storm hit.
Mayor Byron Brown said ambulance crews were being used to bring oxygen to the elderly and drive patients to dialysis treatments. The Kaleida Health system canceled elective and non emergency surgeries at its five hospitals and summoned volunteer drivers to take hospital employees to work.
Unnecessary driving was banned and schoolchildren who began the week with a summerlike Columbus Day holiday ended it with a snow day.