November roared into Buffalo Niagara like a freight train Friday with winds whipping above 60 mph, dropping trees and light poles down onto cars and homes, driving lake water over area roadways and knocking out power to several thousand homes.
Spawned by a “very strong area of low pressure” that passed just to the northwest of the metro area, the wild winds lived up to the early forecasts and then warnings posted by the National Weather Service.
“These are late fall and winter events,” said Jim Mitchell, weather service meteorologist. “It was associated with a very strong storm system that we often see during this time of year.”
One of the earliest visible indications Mother Nature wasn’t messing around arrived during the mid-morning hours Friday when a large, aged silver maple tree crashed down across Prospect Avenue, crushing a pair of cars parked outside the Health-Science Building at D’Youville College. The vehicles were owned by a college staff member and a student, said D. John Bray, D’Youville spokesman.
“Fortunately, no one was in either car,” Bray said.
Both of the vehicles were destroyed by the tree that had been apparently hollowed out on the inside by insects and fell across Prospect Avenue just after 8:30 a.m., blocking the street for several hours.
A short time later, Buffalo Police and National Grid responded to an electrically charged power pole that fell onto an SUV with two men sitting inside as the vehicle was parked along Delaware Avenue outside of Erie County Hall.
Jeffrey Hodge, the driver of the Chevrolet Trailblazer, was in the parked vehicle with another Buffalo man, Andre Clements, waiting for a woman who had a court appointment nearby.
“Next thing you knew, you just heard glass shattering,” Hodge told The Buffalo News, explaining neither he nor Clements were seriously injured, but added he was “still shook up.”
The rear window of the vehicle was blown out by the impact. Both men remained in the vehicle while crews cut power to the pole. The vehicle was insured, Hodge said.
The wind storm is associated with at least one death across the border.
A 56-year-old Port Colborne, Ont., woman was killed about 11 a.m. when tree was blown by the wind onto the vehicle she was driving on Fielden Avenue, according to Niagara Regional Police. The woman’s identity was not immediately released.
The peak wind gust associated with the storm in Buffalo Niagara was clocked at 62 mph at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Buffalo at 6:42 a.m., the weather service reported. Wind gusts of 61 mph were reported at both the Niagara Falls and Buffalo Niagara international airports, those coming at noon and 1 p.m. respectively.
Area utility crews were busy late Friday restoring power to thousands. More than 7,500 customers of National Grid and NYSEG were without electricity during the peak of the storm. As of late afternoon, about 6,300 were still in the dark, including 1,250 in Erie County, mainly in Buffalo, Amherst, Cheektowaga and Tonawanda.
Numerous other damage was reported Friday around the region, including:
• The partial collapse of the former Goodwill warehouse, a large boarded-up brick building on Guilford Street.
• A tree that fell on a house on Claremont Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda.
• A large Wendy’s restaurant sign was blown down about 10 a.m. at its 811 Young St., City of Tonawanda, location. No injuries were reported.
• Grant School in North Tonawanda, which houses a universal pre-K program and a county Head Start program, was forced to close Friday, after a utility pole came down behind the building, knocking out its electrical power.
• Downed trees, limbs or power lines also were widespread including on Delaware and Elmwood avenues in Buffalo, Clinton Street in Elma, and at several other locations in Erie Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Chautauqua counties.
“This is your typical strong, gusty wind coming off Lake Erie and across Western New York,” said David Thomas, weather service meteorologist. “You maybe only get a half dozen of those a year, and they’re typically in the cold season.”
The winds tapered off late Friday afternoon and were expected to continue decreasing through this morning.
Temperatures, after flirting with the 70-degree mark on Halloween Day, will only be in the high 40s today.
There’s a chance of rain and snow showers tonight that could change over to snow flurries between midnight and 2 a.m. Sunday. Little accumulation is expected. Sunday highs aren’t expected to get out of the 30s with overnight lows dropping into the 20s, according to the weather service.
Almost forgotten amid the blustery Friday was the pair of heavy rain events early and late Thursday that dampened Halloween for many and shattered the previous Oct. 31 record for rainfall. The National Weather Service in Cheektowaga received 1.22 inches for the day, smashing the old record of 0.78 inches set in 1942.