The Southtowns continued to bear the brunt of the storm Tuesday, but the Blizzard of 2014 sent lake-effect bands of squalls northward to spread more snow over other parts of Erie County during the late morning and afternoon.
As whiteouts intensified and streets got more slippery, expressways were closed, and officials in Kenmore, the Town of Tonawanda, Cheektowaga and Amherst warned motorists against unnecessary travel.
It was a rough day all around.
In Amherst, which stretches from Niagara Falls Boulevard to Transit Road and from Tonawanda Creek to almost Buffalo Niagara International Airport, experiences varied widely.
Some West Amherst neighborhoods, north of the University at Buffalo, were still waiting for snow to appear Tuesday afternoon. But sections of the I-990 Expressway just a mile away were snow-covered and stormy. The farther south motorists went, the worse the conditions became.
News Staff Reporter Anne Neville said that by 12:30 p.m., with heavy snow bands moving into Williamsville and winds howling, visibility declined significantly. Whiteouts reportedly buffeted Main Street and Wehrle Drive, and a few cars slid off roads and into ditches.
Just west in Snyder, News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers observed that “a steady descent of fine, powdery snow causes whiteout conditions when it meets with intermittent gusts of wind. Temperatures hover around 5 degrees, but the wind chill factor means it feels like 20 below. No one appears to be driving.”
– Bruce Andriatch
City Hall was open Tuesday, though some departments were lightly staffed. The Common Council met, but it convened two hours ahead of schedule so staff could get home.
Mayor Byron W. Brown stressed the importance of continuing a sense of normalcy, explaining why City Hall was open when nearly every other Niagara Square institution – including federal, state and city courts – were closed.
Calls to 311, the city’s non-emergency help line, did not increase because of the storm. Many of the calls Tuesday concerned changes in the city’s garbage pickup schedule, Brown said.
Pickup that was canceled Tuesday will resume today, meaning that pickup around the city will be delayed by one day for the rest of the week. Garbage that should have been picked up today will be collected Thursday. Thursday’s garbage will be picked up Friday. And Friday’s will be collected Saturday.
The city has not instituted any driving bans, though unnecessary travel is discouraged, and the city is enforcing parking restrictions to allow plows to clear the streets.
Keeping City Hall open can save the city money. When it’s closed, essential workers who would be called in to work anyway, such as those in the 311 call center, are paid overtime.
Brown had planned to leave Tuesday for Albany to attend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address today but said he changed his plans when conditions in South Buffalo worsened.
He was planning to leave this morning instead. He goes to the speech every year, he said, and thinks it’s important to represent the community.
Police officials said the snow not only kept most vehicles off the streets, but it also brought crime reports to a near standstill. Officers were dispatched to minor traffic accidents and to block entrances to closed roadways – including the Skyway and the Niagara Thruway (I-190).
After months of nonstop work through summer heat, driving rain and heavy snow, the high winds and frigid temperatures finally kept workers from the HarborCenter construction site next to First Niagara Center.
The storm also postponed the annual commemoration of the most notable Jan. 7 event in Buffalo history – the birth of President Millard Fillmore. The ceremony at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn was rescheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. It is sponsored by Forest Lawn, the University at Buffalo (which Fillmore helped to found) and the Buffalo Club.
– Jill Terreri and Melinda Miller
Police Capt. James Speyer couldn’t remember another time when the Walden Galleria closed its doors, but it did Tuesday afternoon as the height of the storm hit the town.
“Very rarely does the mall ever close,” he said.
Cheektowaga joined other towns and villages in Erie County in declaring a state of emergency Tuesday.
“The driving is impossible,” Supervisor Mary Holtz said.
Garbage and recycling pickup was canceled in the town for Tuesday and today. The normal schedule will resume Thursday, and those who missed the pickup will have to wait until next week, Holtz said.
And police were hoping motorists would heed the state of emergency and stay off the streets.
“We’ve had a lot of vehicles off in the ditch, stuck in snowbanks,” Speyer said.
Police also were asking those who are able, to clear the snow from sidewalks in front of their business or home as soon as possible.
“The other issue we have are sidewalks, where people are forced to walk in the street,” he said. “People are leaving their cars, it’s going to get worse.”
– Barbara O’Brien
Although parts of southern Clarence were caught in the snow band Tuesday, by midday conditions were mild in most of the town.
“We’re seeing that the Town of Clarence is in really good shape compared to our neighbors on the other side of the Thruway,” said James Dussing, Clarence highway supervisor.
Still, the town had 12 plow trucks out making sure roads stayed clear.
“All you can do is kind of ride it out,” Dussing said.
– Tiffany Lankes
The Town of Eden is right in the heart of the Blizzard of 2014, and it’s far from pretty.
Stranded motorists were rescued overnight by volunteer firefighters on their personal snowmobiles. Dozens of cars are abandoned. Whiteouts continued to whip along Route 62.
And, despite this, some brazen motorists are thumbing their noses at a driving ban. Police on Tuesday guarded a stretch of Route 62 to deter drivers who wanted to muscle their way through the ban. Police had reports of cars stuck in the middle of the road, and drivers walking away. One motorist who nearly hit a town police car head-on was ticketed.
“It’s a huge safety concern,” said an Eden police dispatcher, noting that cars were reported in ditches along Route 75 and Eckhardt Road, as well.
Eden Police Sgt. Shawn Bishop called it “the most treacherous” conditions he’s ever seen in his 23 years of police work.
The lack of visibility led to a stretch of Route 62 being barricaded by police Tuesday morning. The driving ban was expected to continue until sometime today.
– Karen Robinson
Roads were cleared Tuesday, but highway crews had to break off from work at times because of reduced visibility.
“The problem with us and all the other towns is the visibility,” said Edward Michalski, town highway superintendent.
Roads in Evans and Angola were cleared, but a travel ban was still in place, Michalski said. The difficulty for plows in Evans and Angola wasn’t the amount of snow that fell over the past 24 hours, but the wind, the highway chief said.
“We have a policy: If the visibility is very poor, rather than causing a collision with any vehicles, we usually wait at the fire departments,” Michalski said.
Lt. Michael Masullo said many cars also were stranded along Route 5 and Route 20, and several people ended up at North Evans and Evans Center fire halls, which are serving as warming centers.
– Jay Tokasz
Residents were calling Town Hall to report high water levels near their homes on the river and near Woods Creek.
By Tuesday afternoon, water was creeping onto lawns on the north end of the Island at East River Road across from Cayuga Island, as well as near Baseline and Long Roads, which back up to Woods Creek. There was also isolated flooding on the Robert Moses Parkway underneath the North Grand Island Bridge. The rising water levels were caused by strong winds and ice inflows.
At 1:15 p.m., the New York Power Authority extended a flood warning to include all areas of the East Channel of the Niagara River from Grand Island to Cayuga Island.
Canadian and American ice breakers had been out working on the jam and had gotten things moving around noon.
Freezing temperatures also led to isolated water main breaks on Fix Road, on the west end of Whitehaven Road and two on Ferry Road. Some residents were without water, but crews worked steadily in hopes of restoring service before the end of the day.
– Samantha Maziarz Christmann
Highway crews in Hamburg were planning to work all night to get streets ready for residents to go to work this morning.
The plan was to “really hit it hard a little past midnight and get everything cleared and ready for the morning commute,” said Supervisor Steven J. Walters.
That is, if the storm cooperated and blew out of the area overnight. It had a mind of its own Tuesday, as Hamburg spent the day on a seesaw, with the lake-effect snow band moving into and out of the town, and then dropping down again.
High winds created whiteout conditions at midday as a driving ban remained in effect. Those lured out of their homes by the morning’s sunshine quickly found themselves stuck on the afternoon’s treacherous roads.
A row of tractor-trailers idled at Exit 57 of the still-closed Thruway. A state trooper blocked the entrance’s toll booths, and a Thruway Authority plow worked to keep the toll plaza clear.
Some tractor-trailers opted for Southwestern Boulevard as an alternative to the Thruway, but they crawled along. One needed a tow truck to pull it out of a drift around noon on Southwestern near Camp Road.
– Brian Connolly and Barbara O’Brien
As conditions worsened just after noon Tuesday, a driving ban was issued in the Village of Kenmore. But the ban was downgraded an hour later to a travel advisory warning against unnecessary driving.
Mayor Patrick Mang also declared a state of emergency in the village after consulting with Police Chief Peter J. Breitnauer. Village Court and Tuesday’s Village Board meeting were canceled.
– Joseph Popiolkowski
The band of intense snow and wind might be moving north and south, but it doesn’t ever seem to leave the City of Lackawanna.
“We haven’t received a break yet,” said Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski,
Plows have been out since midnight, clearing most streets at least once.
But Szymanski said residents might not notice, and a driving ban remains in effect in the city.
“We hit every street and in most cases it’s as if we never touched them,” he said.
Now, plow crews are concentrating on main and secondary roads, just to keep pace with the snowfall.
“You can’t not do anything because it will accumulate and then you can’t push it,” he said.
– Jay Tokasz
If a blizzard wasn’t already enough to deal with on Tuesday, Orchard Park firefighters had to contend with a blaze that destroyed an apartment building. Almost a dozen people were left homeless and are being assisted by the Red Cross.
The fire happened at about 2 p.m. in a 12-unit apartment complex at 60 Hunters Ridge Road, between Southwestern Boulevard and Baker Road.
The cause is still under investigation. The building was a total loss, said Orchard Park Police Chief Mark Pacholec.
“Everyone has been evacuated – no injuries,” said Pacholec, adding that not many of the residents were home at the time of the fire.
“We’re having a hard time, because the hoses are freezing,” the chief said Tuesday afternoon.
Orchard Park – where the snow and wind hovered much of the day – was one of the many local communities that declared a state of emergency Tuesday and issued a travel ban.
Officials expected the ban would stay in effect through the early-morning hours today. Orchard Park schools also will stay closed today.
“We would want to err on the side of caution,” said Supervisor Patrick Keem.
– Jay Rey
City of Tonawanda
Mayor Rick Davis issued a travel advisory Tuesday afternoon due to severe weather conditions. Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting was also canceled and rescheduled for today. The informal session will begin at 6 p.m., with the formal session following at 7.
– Joseph Popiolkowski
Town of Tonawanda
Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana declared a state of emergency at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday due to “severe winter storm and blizzard conditions” after consulting with town police and Emergency Services Coordinator Dennis Carson. Caruana said that designation could last until Sunday, but he hoped he could lift it today.
The declaration gives town officials extra authority, such as the ability to tow abandoned vehicles.
Earlier, town police monitoring conditions in the department’s Emergency Operations Center issued a travel advisory, asking residents to avoid any unnecessary travel. Police by Tuesday afternoon had responded to only a handful of minor fender-benders and disabled motor vehicles.
“Call-wise it’s been slow,” said Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo. “That would indicate people are staying home and off the roads as we’re asking them to do.”
Highway Superintendent William E. Swanson expected roads to be in reasonably good shape by this morning.
Meanwhile, Water Department workers repaired a water main break Tuesday morning at June Road and Delaware Avenue, Caruana said. And Town Court proceedings for Tuesday evening also were canceled. Officials asked anyone due before the court to call 876-5536 to reschedule their appearance.
– Joseph Popiolkowski
West Seneca was caught in the middle of the lake-effect snow band and never caught a break Tuesday as the band shifted to the north and then back to the south later in the day.
“When it moved north, we’re catching the bottom of it,” Highway Superintendent Matthew English said. “When it moves south, we catch the top of it.”
Supervisor Sheila Meegan said town crews did well, considering the elements.
“With these drifts, you plow a street, you come back, it’s all blown over again,” she said.
“For the most part, our Police Department is out there enforcing the travel ban. I haven’t received complaints of cars in the road,” the highway superintendent said.
– Barbara O’Brien