New Yorkers in the western state are still reeling from a massive snowstorm that closed roads, triggered driving bans and canceled flights over the weekend leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
As of Friday night, 5.5 feet of snow had blanketed the streets in the town of Orchard Park, New York, near Buffalo in hard-hit Erie County, according to the National Weather Service. As the snowfall increased, two borough residents died from heart complications related to shoveling and attempting to clear the site, borough chief Mark Poloncarz said.
“We send our deepest sympathy and remind everyone that this snow is very heavy and dangerous,” said Poloncarz.
Meteorologists and officials have sounded the alarm about the life-threatening nature of this blizzard, which has the potential to become historic even for the Buffalo area, where heavy snowfall is the norm during the winter months. And the heavy snowfall is expected to continue through the weekend, with small periods of relief.
“Historical snowfall in excess of 4 feet will be possible south of Buffalo, New York. Very cold air will accompany this event with temperatures 20 degrees below normal forecast through the weekend,” the National Weather Service wrote on Friday.
Check out snow as New York faces a historic snowstorm
Areas northeast of Lake Ontario — from central Jefferson County to northern Lewis County — were swamped with heavy snow late Friday, when the snowfall rate was up to 3 inches per hour, according to the Buffalo Weather Service. Locations between Watertown and Harrisville also saw treacherous conditions.
“Travel is becoming extremely difficult, if not almost impossible. … Visibility will be close to zero at times when there is deep snow cover on the roads,” warned the local weather service.
Dozens of flights arriving and departing from Buffalo Niagara International Airport have been canceled as storm conditions worsened, according to the airport’s website.
Heavy snowfall is expected to continue battering the Buffalo area early Saturday, with some respite Saturday afternoon as the storm moves further north. A final fight is expected through Saturday night and into the night hours before the snow starts to ease early Sunday.
The colossal storm has raged across the region for days, prompting local and state officials to declare a state of emergency to ramp up the response. But with a storm this big, it only takes a vehicle or two to slow the clearance effort, Poloncarz noted.
“A reminder to all employers that if your company is in a no-drive area, or your employees are currently in a no-drive area, it is illegal to bring them to work,” Poloncarz said on-line.
The snowstorm, which coincided with a Buffalo-area forecast unseen in more than 20 years, has made travel miserable for many drivers, even as authorities made a point of staying off the roads.
“I can say that our deputies have been inundated with 911 calls regarding disabled motor vehicles and stranded motorists,” Erie County Undersheriff William J. Cooley said during a Friday night news briefing. “We are begging local residents to please just comply with the travel ban, you quickly become part of the problem just standing out there on the street.”
Erie County issued a combination of travel bans and travel advisories that remain in effect as of 9 p.m. Friday, including a travel ban for southern Buffalo.
“This is an event that has hit the cities of the South with a vengeance, very hard, and all of these communities are in a state of emergency at this time,” Poloncarz said.
polon cancer underscored the danger The storm is unleashing communities, pointing to the effects of heavy snowfall, compounded by underlying ice sheets.
“There are vehicles stuck on roads that shouldn’t be going. There are even some snowplows that get stuck in the worst parts of the storm. Do not drive when there is a driving ban”, said Poloncarzand adds that most residents have complied with the ban.
Snow has been falling at a rapid rate for a long time, making it difficult for crews to react.
“In some instances, we will easily exceed five feet of snow in a 21-hour period,” said Bill Geary, the county public works commissioner. “It’s a remarkable amount of time.”
Blasdell, about eight miles from Buffalo, recorded 65 inches as of 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Several locations in the region were hit by at least 3 to 4 feet of snow, including Hamburg (51 inches), Elma (48 inches), East Aurora (43.7 inches), and West Seneca (36 inches).