Western New Yorkers are generally a resolute lot, shrugging off most of the events that make this a home away from home for Weather Channel meteorologists. But the power of the latest storm was enough to test the hardiest of us.
The touted “storm of the decade” that hit the Midwest and Northeast turned into a blizzard in Western New York Monday, forcing schools and businesses to close. Traffic began to stall as workers tried unsuccessfully to race out of work ahead of the storm.
School buses struggled to get children home to worried parents and officials issued cautionary warnings. The governor declared a state of emergency. Driving bans and travel advisories were everywhere.
The actual blizzard conditions were in a band only 10-12 miles wide. For a time Tuesday afternoon after the band moved north, there were whiteout conditions in the Northtowns while downtown saw occasional peeks of weak sunshine.
The luckiest residents were those able to stay home and watch the storm’s awesome fury through frost-covered windows.
Meteorologists blamed a polar vortex, a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air for bringing high winds and frigid air to much of the nation, but we got the worst of it. It may have been colder elsewhere, but the feet of snow that fell in the blizzard belt won us another spot on the national news.
National notoriety aside, we don’t get many real blizzards here. The “Blizzard of ’14” was the first since March 1993. The worst, of course, was the “Blizzard of ’77.” That storm paralyzed much of Western New York and southern Ontario for days. President Jimmy Carter declared a major disaster, a first for a snowstorm. There were two dozen storm-related deaths.
We’ll have to see where this storm fits in our list of notable storms. This area has been through some tough winter trials over the years and there will always be someone ready to inform younger residents that, hey, this was nothing compared to …
This weekend calls for temperatures in the 40s, which amounts to tropical weather. We’ll hold on until then, and let the experts sort out just how bad this one really was. Just for the record books.