Old Man Winter huffed and puffed in a big way across Western New York on Sunday, but the bitterly cold windstorm didn’t blow down anything major.
Temperatures dipped into the 20s and a few flurries were seen in the morning, as high winds hammered the region throughout the day.
Wind gusts averaged about 60 mph at the height of the storm early Sunday morning, with the National Weather Service reporting a peak of 61 mph at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at 4:51 a.m., while the Dunkirk lighthouse experienced 69 mph winds for the highest gust in Western New York.
The winds diminished by late Sunday and weren’t expected to be a factor today – though bitter cold will be.
Despite Sunday’s high winds, there were no major incidents. Plenty of small branches were down, as well as some roof shingles, but damage was otherwise minor, according to local police agencies. Power outages were scattered throughout the area.
National Grid USA initially had about 12,000 customers without power at about 9 a.m., but workers had reduced that to 4,000 by mid-afternoon and expected to have most power restored by around 6 p.m., said spokeswoman Karen Young.
The major areas hit were Batavia, Albion, Fredonia and Dewey, with affected customers “scattered through those areas,” she said, adding that most of the problem was due to tree limbs coming into contact with power lines.
The worst single incident appeared to be a moving car struck by a falling tree branch on down Abbott Road in Orchard Park. Janice Rayner, 64, of Orchard Park, was driving her 2004 Chrysler between Route 20A and Armor Duells Road about 9:30 a.m. when it was hit by the branch. She was not hurt.
“She got lucky,” said Orchard Park police Lieutenant Bruce Dearborn. “It hit the top of her car and smashed the front windshield. The branch poked through the roof of the car.”
A parked car in the town also was hit by a tree branch, also on Abbott Road, he said.
No damage was reported to homes in the town, but a power pole was blown over in the southern end of town, near Gartman and Chestnut Ridge roads.
In Amherst, the wind knocked down a power line near Sheridan Drive and Bailey Avenue, but power crews fixed it quickly.
Several transformers caught fire early in the morning in Cheektowaga, including behind the Hampton Inn on Anderson Road and behind the WalMart at the Thruway Plaza, but the fires were quickly extinguished. Residents also lost power near Genesee Street near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, but “that came back on, too,” said Cheektowaga Police Dispatcher Rick Renner.
Lancaster police reported several power lines and trees down, with NYSEG crews responding.
Similarly, East Aurora police cited “a couple of power outages here in the area, but nothing major,” according to a dispatcher.
The southern part of Erie County had “a bunch of stuff, but that’s to be expected,” said an official at the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, adding that it was “just little stuff.”
“All of our roads that were closed are open now, but we’ve had trees down, wires down, all over the county,” said a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher. In particular, Route 62 was closed in the Town of Ellington and Route 5 was closed between Dunkirk and Silver Creek, but both reopened.
Cattaraugus County had some wires down and minor accidents, but no road closures, a dispatcher said. Niagara County reported nothing at all.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said the winds stemmed from a very strong area of low pressure that passed just to the north, across Ontario and Quebec, generating winds out of the southwest over Lake Erie and across Western New York. With the lake a flat surface with no interference, the wind “kind of accelerates up the lake,” with speeds 10 to 15 mph stronger in the Buffalo area than further away from the water.
The winds diminished during the course of the day, with gusts peaking at about 35 m.p.h. in mid-afternoon, and were expected to “really slack off” by nightfall, he said.
He said the wind will give way to simply bitter cold temperatures over the next few days, with highs in the low 20s today and just the teens on Tuesday and Wednesday. Lows will be single digits.
“It’s going to be the coldest air we’ve seen so far this winter, and probably for a couple of winters,” he said.
Precipitation was minimal. There was a “very brief period” of light rain and snow before daybreak today, but it “didn’t amount to much,” Hitchcok said. However, there’s since been some lake effect snow across ski country, probably several inches, and he said there will be more snow over the next few days in southern Erie County and the Southern Tier, with some areas possibly seeing a foot of snow by Wednesday.
The city and immediate suburbs, however, will see just “light nuisance snow, enough to make the roads slippery at times.”