BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Monday announced a number of changes the county believes will better prepare the area for significant winter storms in the future.
The changes come after officials at all levels were criticized for their response during the Blizzard of ’22 that killed over 40 people and crippled the region for several days.
Changes include purchasing heavy-duty snow-clearing equipment, such as high lifts and industrial snow blowers, as well as the purchase of tracked rescue vehicles and other equipment to transport medical patients. This equipment will be pre-positioned around the City of Buffalo in order to open up corridors to downtown hospitals and assist fire companies. Ambulances will also be teamed up with tracked vehicles to get to patients who need assistance. They will also partner with area snowmobile clubs to utilize those vehicles.
In addition, the county has an agreement in place with National Grid to add tarp and bolt systems to substations to keep blowing ice and snow from damaging its systems.
Changes to prepare the public will also occur. Poloncarz says that the county will partner with University at Albany to develop a blizzard rating system and provide the county with weather analysts. There is also a new policy to more aggressively use IPAWS, a public alert warning system, to use technology to alert people of a storm. They say a new policy will also be created to increase pre-emptive driving bans.
Poloncarz said that there was a “failure” to not use the IPAWS system in December.
Poloncarz said that these changes were developed after several meetings with many departments across the area as well as the state over the last eight months. A first set of recommendations was announced on Jan. 31, with several announcements coming afterwards.
Poloncarz also addressed what he called a “misunderstanding” that there is a master report about the blizzard response that had not been made public.
“I do not want the public and other county officials to think we are hiding a report from their review when, in reality, the report simply does not exist,” Poloncarz said. “Instead, following the Blizzard, I directed my Commissioners and Department Heads to discuss with their respective staffs the actions taken during the event, analyze what worked well and what did not, and prepare an after-action inter-agency memorandum regarding each department’s analysis.”
Earlier this month, New York State finished its review of the storm and listed several recommendations for changes to be made. New York University also did an independent study, the results of which were released in June.
During the storm in December, the Buffalo airport reached a peak of 51 inches of snow. Blizzard conditions lasted for 37 hours and consisted of the snow, hurricane-force winds of up to 80 miles per hour that brought white-out conditions and wind chills of 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.