Geography meant everything Friday in the daylong winter storm that trekked across the Niagara Frontier.
It meant the difference between snowblowing sidewalks and driveways in Youngstown or just slopping through a couple of inches of slush in Angola; donning rugged, knee-high snowboots in Lewiston or wearing waterproof galoshes in Silver Creek; canceling activities in Lockport or routinely finishing off the work week almost anywhere south of Buffalo.
You get the idea.
“It was a little warmer to the south and colder to the north. A couple of degrees can make all the difference,” said Aaron Reynolds, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo, late Friday. He explained that forecasters nailed it when they said: “Heavier snows would be to the north of us and lesser amounts to the south – the further you went north, the more snow you got.”
Official storm totals ranged from a high of 14 inches near Lockport to just 3 inches in Perrysburg as of 8:30 p.m. Other totals in Niagara County, as of 3-5 p.m., were: Youngstown, 12.1 inches; Ransomville, 9; Niagara Falls and Lewiston, 8; Pendleton, 6.4; and North Tonawanda, 6.2. In Erie County, Grand Island led with 10.9 inches as of 8:15 p.m., followed by Williamsville, 7; North Buffalo, 7; and Buffalo Niagara International Airport, 4.7 inches as of about 7 p.m. Albion reported 8 inches as of 5:30 p.m.
Residents along the Lake Ontario shoreline and throughout Niagara and Orleans counties were the hardest hit. Highway crews fought all day to keep up with the snowfall on major routes. Several weather-related accidents kept law enforcement busy and motorists cautious.
Driving was reported to be “extremely hazardous” on and off Grand Island for much of Friday. A morning crash just north of the North Grand Island bridges near Buffalo Street occurred when a Coors beer truck jack-knifed.
Other traffic mishaps included:
• A school bus went into a ditch at about noon on Dysinger Road near Raymond Road in the Town of Lockport. State troopers said no injuries were reported to student passengers or to the driver, who mistakenly believed he was turning into a driveway.
• A pickup truck and a car collided at about 1 p.m. on Millersport Road near Smith Street in Amherst. Police said no injuries were reported, but both vehicles were badly damaged.
• Traffic was slowed by a pair of afternoon rush-hour accidents on the Thruway – one, in the westbound direction between Fredonia and Westfield just after 4 p.m., and another in the southbound direction of the Niagara Thruway at Exit 19 at about 5 p.m. Details about those crashes were not immediately available.
• “Many, many, many small fender-bender accidents,” according to Bob Anderson, the Town of Amherst’s highway chief, commenting on Friday’s travels throughout the town. None of the collisions resulted in serious injuries.
Meanwhile, officials in Niagara County grappled all day with road issues and weather-related cancellations.
Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz ordered the closure of the Niagara County Courthouse in Lockport and all other county government buildings as of 3 p.m.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster announced late Friday afternoon that highway crews in the city put together a 24-hour snowplowing strategy to blitz the city with the aim of having it clear by later this afternoon.
Dyster said after the heaviest snow tapered off in the Cataract City, the highway crews who were busy all day on the city’s main thoroughfares would catch up on those before switching to secondary routes and then eventually residential streets, concentrating overnight on “Center City” – the area of the city bounded by Ontario Avenue to the north, Buffalo Avenue to the south, Hyde Park to the east and Whirlpool Street to the west. Then, plows will move into the LaSalle and Deveaux neighborhoods where most residents park in driveways.
“We’re hoping to have things more or less cleaned up” by about 5 p.m. today, Dyster said.
In Lockport, on the other hand, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Friday plowing would be first concentrated in residential streets around schools. Main streets were not plowed to any noticeable extent throughout the day because, as Tucker explained, it was difficult to “make any headway until it stops.”
While the “Alberta Clipper” was cutting across Buffalo Niagara, the big doozy of a snowstorm – named “Nemo” – was walloping the densely populated Northeast cities of New York and Boston, areas still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
The Clipper is expected to merge with Nemo today and touch off a blizzard.
Snowfall totals in Boston were expected to near three feet in some areas and the Big Apple wasn’t expected to be spared much of Nemo’s wrath.
The same snowstorm that impacted Buffalo Niagara was responsible for at least three deaths in southern Ontario, according to CTV News. An 80-year-old Hamilton woman died shoveling snow early Friday. The other deaths occurred in separate vehicle crashes in Pickering and Prescott, and a bus driver was seriously injured when the vehicle he was driving with 38 passengers rolled over on Highway 401 near Brockville, the report stated.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a State of Emergency Friday for a dozen downstate counties where blizzard warnings remained in effect until 1 p.m. today. As much as 14 inches of snow was expected in New York City with winds upward of 40 mph. On Long Island, where the Buffalo Sabres were spending Friday night in advance of tonight’s 7 p.m. game with the Islanders, up to 20 inches of snow was forecast with wind gusts up to 70 mph.
Nemo grounded thousands of flights and sending ripple effects through airports nationwide, including Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
“A large number of flights – both departures and arrivals – were canceled due to conditions in other parts of the country,” C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said late Friday. “A majority of flights to the East Coast were canceled.”
Hartmayer said Friday’s weather didn’t hamper other flights here with planes able to take off and land without any trouble.
The Sabres planned ahead, leaving Buffalo a day early because of the storm. The team arrived safely at JFK Airport Friday afternoon before checking into their hotel and practicing on Long Island for today’s game, said Sabres’ spokesman Michael Gilbert.
Meanwhile, the sixth annual Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament is expected to start today at the Erie Basin Marina. In all, 96 teams are expected to take to nine man-made ice rinks in the marina parking lots. Organizers said crews planned to work around the clock to clear snow and manicure the rinks for today’s 8:30 a.m. face-off.
News Staff Reporters Charlie Specht, Matt Gryta, Thomas Prohaska, Brian Meyer and Jean Westmoore contributed to this report.