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10 Buffalo fire apparatus stranded during blizzard

Some firefighters have been working 48 to 96 straight hours, and the department is “struggling to get them relief,” said Fire Commissioner Renaldo


Three men walk down Richmond Avenue in whiteout conditions during a sustained blizzard in Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022.

Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP

By Aaron Besecker
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

BUFFALO, N.Y. —Some parts of Erie County may see the driving ban lifted early Monday morning.

Some residents in Buffalo and elsewhere who remain without electricity probably won’t get it back until Tuesday.

The city’s Department of Public Works did not expect to start plowing side streets until at least Monday.

There’s a long way to go to recover from the blizzard.

“We are still in the throes of this very dangerous, life-threatening situation,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a Sunday afternoon briefing, noting more snow was due to hit the area Sunday night.

She and other officials continued to plead with people to stay off the roads in order to allow emergency responders to do their jobs.

“We can see the end in sight,” Hochul said. “It’s just not today.”

Parts of Erie County, possibly to the south, may see the driving ban lifted as of 7 a.m. Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. An announcement on which communities may have the ban lifted would be made by 6 a.m., he said.

The ban was not expected to be lifted Monday for the City of Buffalo and other communities, Poloncarz said.

Roads clogged by snow and abandoned vehicles continued to hamper emergency response and efforts to clear the streets in Buffalo, city officials said during a Sunday morning briefing.

The plan to clear roads of snow in Buffalo was focusing early Sunday on main roads and clearing routes to hospitals, Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Nathan Marton said. Once completed, crews would move to secondary routes, and then, after that, to side streets.

Some streets in the city have been cleared, while many remain impassable, and city officials did not expect crews to start plowing side streets on Sunday, he said.

Alternate-side parking rules in the city were suspended, and garbage and recycling pickup was suspended indefinitely, city officials said.

National Grid has told county officials that some customers without power won’t see restoration until Tuesday, Poloncarz said.

Two-hundred more members of the National Guard are due to arrive in the area Monday, adding to the 200 already here.

Responding to questions about whether Guard members should have been positioned in the area earlier than they were, Hochul said the Guard began to arrive in the area Friday afternoon. Hochul described them as “prepositioned,” and noted that the duties they handle — transporting people in difficult conditions and assisting with search and rescue — were not yet required to be performed at that point, she said.

“We had the National Guard on the ground the very first day of the storm,” she said.

Some Guard members driving into Buffalo from Niagara Falls got stuck because of difficult travel conditions.

“The challenge is, despite our call down to the National Guard, they have to travel on the same roads, under the same conditions, as our snow plows that ended up going into ditches and our utility vehicles that couldn’t get here,” Hochul said. “We don’t have any magic way to get the National Guard here any faster.”

At one point during the blizzard, the Buffalo Fire Department had 10 fire trucks stranded in various parts of the city, Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said.

Some firefighters have been working 48 to 96 straight hours, and the department is “struggling to get them relief,” he said.

Because of the conditions, responses to emergency calls that typically get two or three fire companies deployed to them are sometimes getting only one company sent, the commissioner said. On some calls, no companies are being sent, he said.

In some cases with alarm calls, the department is trying to confirm potential alarm malfunctions before sending any firefighters, he said.

Some fire apparatus have been in need of repair, and the department has been “struggling to get apparatus to all parts of the city,” Renaldo said.

In terms of federal disaster assistance, Hochul said she’s been assured by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain that a disaster declaration will be granted “within a short time” of the request being received.

One of the problems officials are facing in terms of cleanup is that in some places the snow on the ground is too thick and too heavy to be pushed by regular plows, Poloncarz said. On some streets, with snow drifts of 7 or 8 feet, high lifts are required, he said.

And often, when high lifts can’t push the snow, it has to be picked up and put into dump trucks, he said.

“So, it’s going to take some time for recovery in the hardest-hit communities.”


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