Live Updates: Western New York Buried Under Worst Storm in Decades, Travel Disrupted Across
Many people in Buffalo and across Western New York awoke on Saturday morning unable to leave their homes.
High winds and a barreling storm that had continued overnight drove mounds of snow more than 6 feet high against the fronts of homes and businesses, encasing front doors and porches and pinning vehicles parked in roads and driveways. Few people ventured outside, and those who did faced bitterly cold temperatures that numbed faces, froze fingers and left clothing and exposed extremities saturated and frozen.
“This was a very, very bad night in our community,” Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive, said on Saturday morning. “This may turn out to be the worst storm in our community’s history, surpassing the famed Blizzard of ’77 for its ferocity.”
Mr. Poloncarz said two people had died in Cheektowaga because emergency workers could not reach them in time.
He said the wind and snow were hampering emergency response efforts and suggested that hundreds of residents could still be trapped in cars, including people who tried to drive out of the region late at night.
“Our No. 1 priority is coordinating efforts to get to these people,” he said.
In the hardest-hit areas — including Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Lancaster and Williamsville — two thirds of emergency responders were stuck, Mr. Poloncarz said, and were unable to reach people.
“It’s not something we’re proud of,” Mr. Poloncarz said, urging people to stay put, even if they remain at a restaurant where they had dined on Friday night. “Attempts are being made, but there is no guarantee that in a life-threatening emergency situation they’re going to be able to respond immediately.”
Mr. Poloncarz said that in one case, a doctor had to talk a woman through her labor on the phone, giving instructions to her sister on how to deliver the baby.
Elsewhere in Erie County, the mother of a sick baby whom emergency services could not reach pleaded on Facebook for help, saying that her 1-year-old was on a ventilator.
“No power or heat & I got a baby on a ventilator,” she wrote.
Tommy Bellonte, 37, a federal employee, ventured outside his north Buffalo home for less than 10 minutes Saturday morning to let his hulking German shepherd out and check on the condition of his neighbor’s driveway. But the “bone-chilling” cold set in instantly.
“Everyone is like, ‘Oh you’re from Buffalo, you’re used to this.’ But you can’t get used to this,” he said, as he shoveled the walkway next door. “I’m not staying out for long, that’s for sure.”
Like many people in Western New York, Mr. Bellonte’s holiday arrangements were disrupted by the storm. Instead of heading to his family’s house in the northern suburb of Lewiston, he plans to stay put Saturday, “just hunkering down” and watching the Buffalo Bills game on television.
“I have some friends that live a block away,” he said. “Luckily, we all still have power.”
Mr. Poloncarz, meantime, urged residents not to call 911 for nonemergency situations so that the service could help those who need it most urgently.
“It may stink that your internet is down,” he said, “but that is not a reason to call 911.”
County officials have requested that Governor Kathy Hochul send National Guard troops to help with rescue operations.
Conditions were not expected to improve throughout the day. The National Weather Service predicted winds gusting as high as 65 miles per hour and wind chills as cold as 15 to 25 below zero. Mr. Poloncarz urged residents to stay indoors and not to go out for Christmas Eve.
“If you’re not in the storm area you have no idea how bad it is,” he said.
Read More:Live Updates: Western New York Buried Under Worst Storm in Decades, Travel Disrupted Across