Buffalo looked largely unaffected even as one of the biggest winter storms in recent state history continued on Sunday, after one of the biggest winter storms in recent state history poured more than six feet of snow on the city and heavy winds triggered power outage conditions that shut the area.
As the storm began to ease on Sunday morning, emergency responders rushed to clear roads during a break in the snowfall, accumulating less than two inches, which was expected to return at a much calmer pace during the night. No snow is expected during Thanksgiving after that.
The National Weather Service said the storm shed a record 21.5 inches of snow for the area on Saturday in a 24-hour period. The previous record was 7.6 inches on November 19, 2014, during a storm that left over 86 inches on its third day. At 36.9 inches, this was the region’s second snowiest November on record.
Still, many Buffalo residents took the storm in their own stride. John D’Aquino, 23, a law student at the University of Buffalo, scrambled through the snowdrifts to get a cup of coffee from a local shop before returning to his apartment to watch the Buffalo Bills game. The street where he lived was plowed by several vehicles still covered in snow on the side of the road.
“There’s nothing like a Buffalo winter,” said Mr. D’Aquino.
Erie County executive Mark C. Poloncarz said at a press conference Sunday morning that much of the area had been cleared of snow and that the driving ban on some of the worst-affected roads could be lifted in two days. He noted that the district has become much more agile in dealing with weather events, and after a similar storm in 2014, many district roads were closed for a week.
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“Eight years ago at this point, we were basically running out of snow and hadn’t really started our recovery and cleanup efforts yet,” said Mr Poloncarz. “And here, eight years later, we’ve seen more snowfall in a shorter amount of time in most of the affected areas, and we’re in much better shape.”
Some school district officials were even considering holding classes on Monday as usual. District deputy administrator Lisa Chimera said that inspectors held a meeting Sunday morning via Zoom to consider their options, but many have already chosen to close schools.
Mr Poloncarz said the storm was blamed for killing two people “as a result of snowplow, snowplow problems”, urging residents to be careful when clearing driveways and to encourage them to check out neighbors. 280 people were rescued in the area and about 1,600 people were left without electricity. The Weather Service said five buildings collapsed under the weight of the snow.
The storm, which at times fell as much as five inches per hour, left the largest total in Orchard Park, a suburb southeast of Buffalo—more than 80 inches, or six and a half feet, to be exact. While the Weather Service has not determined whether the storm broke any statewide records, county officials believe snow totals will surpass the 1966 storm, which dropped 50 inches in Oneida County in one day. Unconfirmed reports on Saturday suggested that more than that amount fell in Orchard Park on Friday.
More recent snowfall was powdery and easier to clear, but expected strong winds can create drifts that limit visibility. Crews are also trying to break up the heavy snow and ice below the surface.
On a sunny day in the northern town of Amherst in Buffalo, winds blew snow clouds from the top of the roof outside a local hockey rink and across from the parking lot below.
Many of the main roads have been completely cleared as people in this suburban community continue to clear driveways and vehicles from the storm.
“I love the snow.
A few miles away, on Buffalo’s Main Street, the roads were covered with sleet and many people were still digging their way out.
Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat and Buffalo native, has declared a state of emergency in 11 counties, including some adjacent to Lake Ontario on New York’s northern border with Canada. At a news conference on Sunday, Ms. Hochul said she had sought help from federal emergency officials to pay for rescue efforts. She also said she plans to seek federal assistance for small businesses damaged by the storm.
“As a Buffalo and country-dweller my whole life, we’ve seen a lot of snow,” Ms. Hochul said. “But when you reach 80 to 85 inches during a snow event of just a few days, anywhere from Natural Bridge to Orchard Park in the North Country, it’s something you need to tell your grandchildren about.”
Elijah Cap, 21, an accounting student at the University of Buffalo who works part-time at a supermarket, missed his 6 a.m. shift because he was buried too deep. He said the storm was “pretty mediocre” by the city’s standards.
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” said Mr. Cap. “Main Street is always messy in the winter.”