Western New Yorkers were shoveling out their driveways – and their neighbors, too – Thursday following a winter storm that dumped about a foot of heavy snow across the region overnight.
The snowstorm, which has wreaked havoc over much of the Northeast, left roads slick and piled with snow in the Buffalo area.
Emergency responders were dealing dozens of vehicles were slipping off the roads and getting stuck in snowbanks, but no major weather-related accidents were reported.
Light snow and bit of freezing drizzle fell during the morning, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said Thursday’s precipitation won’t amount to much.
“The snow is pretty much over,” Hitchcock said.
Most of the region logged about 10 to 12 inches during the storm, which hit, almost exactly at 4 p.m. Wednesday, as had been expected.
The highest storm total in the region was in South Wales, which was blanketed in 15 inches of snow.
Winds didn’t end up being much of a problem in urban areas, but Hitchcock said there were reports of “some pretty bad drifting out in the country.”
The heaviest snow fell through the first half of the night, falling at a rate of one to two inches per hour, but tapered off “during the wee hours of the morning,” Hitchcock said.
That gave highway crews across the region a chance to begin clearing the snow before the morning commute.
As of 2 p.m. in Buffalo, 75 percent of residential streets and all main and secondary streets had been plowed in the city, and about 40 pieces of snow-clearing equipment are out on the road, Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said.
The city hoped to be done with residential streets by the time alternate parking rules take effect at 6 p.m. today, and crews are slated to go back in the evening to get the other side of the street.
The city uses GPS technology in each of its vehicles to track where the plows are, how much salt they are spreading, how long drivers are idling and which routes they are taking.
“We’re shortening that time between completion of mains and secondaries and residential streets,” Stepniak said.
The vehicles are monitored on an electronic map from the city’s streets garage, from the Department of Public Works’ “War Room” on the fifth floor of City Hall or by laptop.
As complaints about street conditions come into the city’s 311 line, the GPS systems automatically close the complaints as the plow passes the street, Stepniak said.
If a lot of 311 complaints come in on a street that was already plowed, a supervisor in the field can check to make sure a plow is adjusted properly.
Mostly, the city follows a snow-removal plan that is filed with the Common Council every year, and does not respond as complaints come in.
“We aren’t firefighters,” Stepniak said. “We don’t put out fires.”
As for clearing sidewalks, each property owner is responsible, and a city ordinance states they must be cleared by 8 a.m.
As for the rest of the day, the Buffalo area can expect up to an inch more of snow, Hitchcock said.
Friday was expected to be dry but cold with highs not expected to get above 30.
“Over the weekend we’ll see a little bit of light snow but nothing like last night,” Hitchcock said.
The weekend snow could cause icy conditions on the roads again, he cautioned.
Temperatures were expected to plummet by the middle of next week, with highs in lower 20s and lows in the teens – right about when youngsters head back to school after the New Year.
“Normal, winter cold,” Hitchcock described the approaching deep freeze.