BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a statewide State of Emergency, which took effect at 6 a.m. Friday due to the snowstorm which has brought blizzard-like conditions to the area for more than 24 hours.
On Friday, Erie County’s Public Works commissioner, William Geary, urged drivers to stay off the roads, noting that it will not even be safe for snow plows to drive at times.
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“The best thing you could do is stay off the roads, stay inside, give our crews time,” Geary said during a Friday morning press briefing. “I will set the expectation that there is going to come a point in time today – it’s not maybe, but it’s just when – we’re probably going to have to pull trucks off the road. We may have to pull them off for a significant amount of time.
“That’s not just us,” he added. “I’ve talked with New York State DOT as well. We don’t want any of our drivers put in harm’s way. If they can’t see – and we expect visibility with these winds and blizzard conditions [to be poor]. A blizzard is three hours plus – we’re looking at a 30-hour period with winds above blizzard conditions.”
Two people have died in Cheektowaga after first responders were not able to reach their homes, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz reported Saturday morning.
“This was a very, very bad night in our community,” Poloncarz said, saying this might be the “worst storm in our community’s history,” even worse than the Blizzard of ’77.
A ban on all commercial vehicles on the New York State Thruway, from exit 46 (Rochester I-390) to the Pennsylvania border, and the Niagara Thruway from I-90 to exit 22 (Route 62), took effect at 6 a.m. Friday.
The start of the State of Emergency for Erie County coincided with the start of the blizzard warning in Erie, Niagara, Genesee and Orleans counties, which lasts until 7 a.m. Sunday.
In Erie County, plows were unable to clear the roads Friday night due to lack of visibility, but they were back on the roads Saturday morning.
South of there, a winter storm warning took effect in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Wyoming counties. It will remain in effect until 1 a.m. Monday.
(Above: Could flooding and wind knock the salt off the roads? Erie County DPW Commissioner Bill Geary shared more Friday morning on Wake Up.)
Starting Friday at 2 a.m., the NFTA suspended all Metro bus, rail, and paratransit services until further notice.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Thursday asked people to stay off the roads if they can, noting that visibility will be difficult on Friday and Saturday, due to blowing and drifting snow.
“I know we just dealt with a historic storm in November, and here we go again, but by all accounts, that one was just a warm-up for the storm that we’re about to get over the next few days,” Brown said during a conference Thursday afternoon.
Calling it a potentially life-threatening storm, Brown noted that some meteorologists have referred to this as a “once-in-a-generation” event.
Brown and Buffalo’s Department of Public Works Commissioner Nate Marton provided another update on Friday morning. During that virtual conference, they said that winds were too high for city workers to get up in bucket trucks.
Erie County offices will be closed Friday. In addition, Buffalo’s City Hall was closed Friday. Starting Thursday at 3 p.m., all of Buffalo’s waterfront parks, including Erie Basin Marina, were closed. Lakeshore flooding is possible, and the Hoover Beach neighborhood was ordered to evacuate Thursday night.
A special phone number is open for anyone with a serious but non-life-threatening concern in Erie County: 716-858-SNOW (858-7669). If you have a life-threatening situation, call 911. This number is for things like running out of necessary medicine or being unable to get to a dialysis center, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.
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