In the end it was a white Christmas after all for Western New York, although some parts of the region faced a lot more wet than white.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service measured 2 inches of snow on the ground about daybreak on Christmas, providing the area a white Christmas.
The current cold snap sent the temperature down to 2 degrees Wednesday morning, a tad cooler than forecasters expected but well short of a Christmas Day record.
“Most of Western New York salvaged a white Christmas,” said meteorologist Jim Mitchell, who noted the recent thaw had wiped out the previous snow cover.
Wednesday’s designation means that 21 of the last 34 years have had a white Christmas in the Buffalo area, or about 62 percent.
The snow doesn’t stop here, either. The National Weather Service has issued a lake-effect advisory from 10 a.m. today through 10 a.m. Friday, with as much as 7 inches of new snow for southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
The events of the holiday put the day’s chill in warm perspective.
Bishop Richard J. Malone helped usher in the Christian holiday by celebrating Christmas Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
At Buffalo City Mission, 250 volunteers helped package and deliver 3,700 Christmas dinners to Western New Yorkers. Dinners included ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, roll and pie.
Fifty volunteers at the Salvation Army’s Buffalo location served 200 meals to seniors, people alone for the holidays and folks living in the shelter.
About a dozen volunteers from Local 282, Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, gave out stuffed dalmatians to kids at Women & Children’s Hospital.
Artist Fran Lagana-Brooks also donated prints of her painting “Breakfast With Santa” to the hospital in honor of her mother Mary Lagana, who died on Christmas Eve, as a last Christmas gift from her and her brother, Chuck Lagana.
Meanwhile, Tonawanda Creek at Rapids continued to fall just as slowly as it rose, as floodwaters receded. The creek, which crested at 15.13 feet Tuesday afternoon – not far below the 16-foot major-flooding level – had dropped to 14.8 feet as of 1 a.m. Wednesday and was expected to hit 13.2 feet later in the day.
“It’s starting to recede, but anything that was inundated there is still having problems,” Mitchell said.
Authorities in that area have reported a slow reopening of closed roads from the flooding. But authorities cautioned that people should not drive around barriers on roads that remain closed, such as on Wolcott Road in Clarence between Transit and Goodrich roads.
Wednesday afternoon, Amherst police closed Smith Road from Transit to Millersport Highway and Dann Road from Smith to Transit because of heavy flooding.
Routine police patrols found water rising at a rapid clip as of late afternoon, prompting the shutdown of the two Amherst roads as well as multiple courts and neighborhood streets that branch off them, according to a police dispatcher.
Police said the cause of the flooding wasn’t yet clear. “We’re not sure where it’s coming from, but it’s rapidly rising, so something obviously burst that’s contributing to it, because it’s increasing pretty fast,” the dispatcher said. “Patrols were out there for 20 minutes, and it’s already up to two feet in those 20 minutes.”
The police patrols were monitoring areas that still had some standing water from the flood when they noticed the new flooding and started receiving calls. No injuries were reported. Police were notifying residents.
The geography of Tonawanda Creek, with its long, winding path and its lack of steep grade, lends itself to more gradual flooding and receding.
“It takes a long time to rise and a long time to fall,” Mitchell said.