Frequent whiteouts along Transit Road were forcing cars to creep along at about 10 mph and in some cases pull off to the side of the road this morning along parts of the major north-south route in Amherst, Cheektowaga and Lancaster.
Drivers along Genesee Street near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport faced similar conditions, with some also forced to pull over and stop because of limited visibility.
Conditions vary, however, depending on where drivers are. Roads were clear and visibility good in East Amherst by mid-morning in the area around North French Road.
But visibility progressively decreased heading south to Genesee Street, dropping from about 50 feet by the Eastern Hills Mall to whiteout conditions at the intersection of Genesee Street and Transit.
“You can’t even see right now,” said Mark Wegner, Cheektowaga’s highway supervisor. “I just drove around the whole town. You can’t see in front of you. Everyone’s driving around at 20 with their flashers on.”
John Boller, manager of the ExpressMart on Genesee near Transit, said it took him 45 minutes to get to work this morning from his home in South Buffalo, a ride that in better weather takes only 15 minutes.
What’s more, he drove through two communities, Lackawanna and West Seneca, with driving bans to do it.
He took a Snickers bar with him for food in case he got stranded.
The store was getting little business, although snow plows stopped by for gas.
The whiteouts were so bad that you could not even see an iconic site across the street that is impossible to miss on a clearer day – Salvatore’s Italian Gardens Restaurant. Although Cheektowaga does not have a driving ban in effect, Wegner cautioned drivers to stay off the roads in part because it makes it difficult for the plows to clear them.
“It’s just as hard for us to see as other people,” he said.
Those conditions were similar in other parts of Amherst, where highway supervisor Bob Anderson said heavy wind was affecting visibility.
“Everything’s been plowed and everything’s been cleared, but it’s extremely low visibility because of the wind,” Anderson said.
“A lot of the streets are plowed, but are still very slippery because of the sub-zero temperature.”
Anderson said he expects those conditions to persist most of the day.
Despite the problems, the Village of Williamsville expected to have offices open until 1 p.m. today. Village residents who experienced service disruptions were encouraged to call Village Hall at 632-4120 until then so services could be restored as soon as possible.
Although parts of southern Clarence were caught in the snow band, by mid-day 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.
“At this point, all you can do is kind of ride it out and keep the roads open for ambulances and fire trucks,” he said. “We are monitoring all of the different web sites and trying to keep tabs on it.”
The challenging conditions, however, did not quell one fast-food worker’s sense of humor. The attendant at the drive-through window at a McDonald’s served up a chorus of the Beatles along with the hot coffee.
“Here comes the sun, here comes the sun. And I say, it’s all right,” the woman sang.