An inch or two of new snow, followed by a mid-morning burst of freezing rain, left Western New York roads covered with slush this morning, causing slowdowns for many morning commuters and a rash of accidents, including a fatal one in the Town of Brant.
Donald Murray, 76, of Angola, was killed when his westbound vehicle crossed over the center line of Route 5 on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, directly in front of an eastbound vehicle driven by Steven Forthman, 43, of Silver Creek. Murray was pronounced dead at the scene and Forthman was taken to Lakeshore Hospital where he was listed in serious condition.
The accident forced authorities to close Route 5 in the area, but it reopened by about 11 a.m.
A general snowfall dumped 1.7 inches of snow on the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga, between about 4 and 6:30 a.m., before turning to a mix of rain and snow.
“It was more of a snow and sleet mix for a short time, about half an hour, then we pretty much transitioned to freezing rain,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell said.
That unhealthy mix caused major problems on some roadways, including the Youngmann Highway in Amherst and Tonawanda, along with Millersport Road in Amherst. Thruway State Police described the highway conditions as messy at mid-morning, with quite a few cars off the road, but no major incidents.
Another accident, on Jamison Road in Elma, left a tractor-trailer flipped onto its side, but no major injuries were reported.
In a third accident, at about 8 a.m. in Niagara Falls, a New York State trooper was in a vehicle struck by a car that slid out of control on snow and ice on the northbound Niagara Thruway. The vehicle drove through the median, went airborne and struck the southbound state police Chevrolet Tahoe.
The trooper was taken to an area hospital with minor injuries, while troopers charged the other driver, Eric J. Smith, of Lewiston, with failure to keep right and speed not reasonable and prudent, according to police reports.
The morning slush shouldn’t last too long, as an extreme – but short – warming trend already has started, with temperatures rising steadily from the 34 degrees reported at the weather service office at about 8:30 a.m.
Forecasters are calling for highs in the low 50s on Tuesday and mid 50s on Wednesday, before temperatures nose-dive back into the 20s later in the week, with a low of 14 degrees expected Thursday night.
“That will bring us back to reality pretty quickly,” Mitchell said.