Buffalo, New York snow storm closes schools, leaves nearly 400,000 without power

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All that is left standing of this tree on Granger Place in Buffalo, New York is the trunk.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Buffalo, New YorkLake effect snow has come early to parts of Western New York prompting a State of Emergency and a flood watch to be issued, especially in Buffalo, New York and its suburbs where nearly 2 feet of snow fell during the afternoon and last night. Snow started to fall at around 12:00 pm EST on Thursday, October 12, heavy at times, and accompanied by thunder and lightning. Forecasters called the weather event "unprecedented." A driving ban has been issued for Tonawanda, New York, Buffalo and Amherst where at least "80% of roads in Amherst are impassible." The Buffalo Niagara International Airport opened at almost 3:30 p.m. [EST]. The New York State Throughway, or interstate 90 is closed from nearly Rochester, New York to Dunkirk, New York which is nearly 110 miles long. Motorists at the Williamsville, New York toll barrier are being turned around. A driving ban remains in effect while a state of emergency exists.

Water will be shut off in 24 hours due to the lack of electricity to water pumps in the area and in a press conference, Mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown issued a "boil water advisory." Brown also said that "70,000 of the 75,000 residents and businesses in Amherst are still without power." Residents are asked to bottle water and prepare for the outage. It is not known when water will be turned back on. At least 30 water intake pumps in Erie County, out of the 50 the county has, have no power. Officials say that businesses and residents could be out of water by 5:00 p.m. [EST].

At least 3 people have been killed due to the storm. Two of those people were killed in a two-car accident in Lancaster, New York, and the other person was in Niagara County and died after being hit by a vehicle. One person was crushed and killed by a falling tree in Amherst, while in the process of removing snow from his property.

Hundreds of trees have snapped in half as the snow began to fall around the city. Many trees, which still have their leaves, have broken into pieces as the heavy, wet snow began to pile up, as much as an inch an hour. Early on Thursday, the airport had received nearly 9 inches (23cm) of snow and climbing. The storm has caused many delays and cancellations in flights leaving from or going to Buffalo.

This car on Granger Place in Buffalo, New York was nearly completely covered by the nearly 2 feet of snow that fell on October 12 and 13 2006.

Nearly 400,000 people in Buffalo and surrounding suburbs are still without power and forecasters at the NOAA are warning people "not to go outside in an area where heavy snow has fallen unless absolutely necessary." Power may not be restored to the affected areas until Sunday and possibly next week in some areas. Damage to trees is extensive with nearly every tree destroyed on Granger Place in Buffalo.

"This was extremely heavy snow and most of the trees still have most of their leaves ... we can't do a complete damage assessment until the snow stops falling," said spokesman for Niagara Mohawk, Western New York's area power company, Steve Brady.

"At 8 pm [on Thursday], utility companies were reporting over 50,000 customers without power. The reason for the widespread power outages has been the combination of very heavy water laden snow accumulating on the trees that still have most of their leaves. Tree's limbs break under the weight of the snow and bring down power lines as they fall," said a statement on NOAA's website.

"[This is the] snowiest day in 137 years [of weather records]. Six inches of snow occurred on October 13, 1909 and again on October 31, 1917," added the NOAA weather statement.

Many business and nearly every school in Western New York are still closed due to the weather and the snow is forecasted to move south again over the Buffalo Metropolitan area, but snow amounts are not expected to be significant. Wind is expected to be strong and gusty which could bring down tree limbs which are broken but still attached to the tree. Some areas could se an additional 6 inches of snow by Saturday morning.

The flood watch takes effect at 2:00 p.m. [EST] and continues through Saturday.

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