The blizzard is behind us.
Ahead, there lies warmer temperatures and possibly a big melt.
But for many folks around Western New York, Wednesday was a day for digging out, and checking out the storm-ravaged landscape.
Some even found time to play a little.
“It feels so good,” said Jenna Blair, 10, who was sledding with family members at Chestnut Ridge Park.
Some were tired. One owner of a Southtowns business said he had gotten by on little rest.
“In the last three days, I probably had six hours of sleep,” said Geoff Bray, owner of Arbor Lawns in Orchard Park, who plows driveways and lots in the town during this time of year.
“You get – I guess you get used to it,” Bray said.
Some felt cheerful about the relief from the landmark storm.
The mood might have been positive in part because, according to Erie County officials, no fatalities had been reported around the region resulting from the blizzard.
Lake View resident Marcia Dixon said she thinks people deserve credit for being extra careful and heeding driving bans during the storm.
“I think people really used their heads about driving,” said Dixon, manager of the Wanakah Pharmacy.
Many children were home from school on Wednesday, but businesses were getting back into the usual routine, after two days of perilous commutes that largely kept customers away.
Eighty-three-year-old Jerry Brooks cleaned the front walk of his home on South Lake Street in Hamburg so the mail carrier could deliver his mail with ease. Earlier, Brooks spent 90 minutes clearing his driveway and front sidewalk with his snow blower.
“The wind put drifts of snow up four feet high by my garage,” said Brooks, who worked scraping his front walk down to the concrete.
“At my age, you have to be careful,” added Brooks, who explained he stayed inside Tuesday. “You dress nice and warm. That’s the idea.”
In Orchard Park, the town lifted a driving ban by 5 a.m. Town residents spent Wednesday digging out cars and clearing walks, driveways and doorsteps. Roads ranged from bare to slippery to sloppy, but they were clear enough for residents to head outside.
Rod Blair of Hamburg took his two daughters and one of their friends out for some fresh air, sledding at Chestnut Ridge. “I had to get them out of the house,” Blair said. Jenna, 10, and Lauren, 12, had been cooped up in the house the past couple of days.
“I felt like I was stranded,” added their friend, Jordyn Moonan, 10, of West Seneca.
But Wednesday afternoon, the three were finally able to enjoy a couple hours sledding.
“Awesome,” Lauren said, by the end of their outing at Chestnut Ridge.
Guenther Hill in the Village of Hamburg was another hot sledding spot in the Southtowns.
Zigzagged boot tracks littered the hill, which – ending at Eighteen Mile Creek – is a favorite among villagers. There, nearly a dozen children like 12-year-olds Mackenzie Bermingham and Kim Mumm were busy at play.
“This time, it was really good,” Mackenzie said. “The conditions were perfect.”
All that cheer may have been bolstered by word from weather experts that the wild winter week will moderate a bit soon.
Tom Paone, National Weather Service meteorologist in Buffalo, said after today we’ll be pretty much out of the “bitter cold” weather through at least next week.
“There’s no Arctic outbreak like we just had,” Paone said.
Rather, the temperatures on Saturday are expected to crest into the low to mid 50s with rain, which could cause some other problems.
“The only other concern weather-wise is the risk for ice jam flooding,” Paone said.
The seven-day forecast by the weather service shows that from Friday through Sunday night, the temperature will remain above freezing both during the day and overnight.
“This is going to be the January thaw coming this week,” said Paone. “But, winter isn’t over.”
Extended – and more theoretical – forecasts show much colder air returning to Western New York by the third week of January.
When the final flakes were counted, they stacked up highest in Orchard Park, where 22 inches fell during the Blizzard of 2014, according to National Weather Service tabulations Wednesday.
At the service’s office at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, 17.1 inches had fallen as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The snow totals coincided pretty closely with snow totals projected in advance of the storm by the weather service, which showed the largest amounts falling on a line east from Buffalo and then covering the central and southern areas of Erie County.
Totals in other places outside of Erie County included Corfu and Pembroke with 12 inches; Pendleton, 3; Lockport, 1.8; Niagara Falls International Airport, 1.2 inches; Warsaw, 4; and Perrysburg, just 4 inches.
Besides the snow, the frigid, sub-zero cold associated with the blizzard helped to complete the ice bridge and join the United States and Canada in the Niagara River below Niagara Falls, State Parks Police confirmed Wednesday.
Bray, the owner of Arbor Lawns, said that what made his job difficult was not the amount of snow that fell, but the winds.
“It was just – I don’t even think it was the worst storm in the world. But the wind and the cold were really tough,” Bray said.
He gave credit to the 10 people who drive equipment for his service.
“We’re very local, and we kind of know our way around, but still,” said Bray. “The wind, the blowing snow – you just couldn’t see at times.”
In the end, Wednesday still proved to be a record breaker.
As of 4:30 p.m., 7.2 inches of snow fell at the airport, a daily record for the date – breaking the former high mark of 6.6 inches set Jan. 8, 1942.
Those extra inches from the blizzard’s final hours put Buffalo at 55.3 inches for this winter. That pushed the region ahead of Syracuse, with 51.9 inches; Rochester, 48; Binghamton, 46; and Albany, 31.6; in the race for the state’s Golden Snowball award.