© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Buffalo continues to dig out from historic blizzard

Main Street in Williamsville is usually five lanes but was reduced to one in each direction due to the heavy snowfall.
David Sommerstein
Main Street in Williamsville is usually five lanes but was reduced to one in each direction due to the heavy snowfall.

The travel ban was still on in the city of Buffalo Wednesday morning. But with travel restrictions lifted outside the city Tuesday, people were digging out from what may go down as the worst blizzard in Buffalo’s storied snow history.

Emily Donnelly of Williamsville finally got out for pizza Tuesday after almost five days hunkered down.

"It was the greatest pizza I’ve ever had," she said, cocktail in hand. "We looked around and were like why does this taste so good?!"

Donnelly had power but thousands weren’t so lucky. Many of them sought out shelters for warmth and food.

The northern suburbs of Williamsville, Amherst, and Cheektowaga — often used to watching lake effect snowstorms pummel the southtown suburbs — were some of the hardest hit by this blizzard.

Loren Irmisch grew up in Williamsville and says Buffalonians are used to snowstorms. "Usually it’s one day of snow and it gets cleared and you’re out the door," he said. "That did not happen this time."

Hundreds of people got stranded in their cars and had to be rescued. More than 30 people died.

On Williamsville's Main Street, a guy muscled a snowblower through the packed snow on the sidewalk while his partner, Peter Pilc, plowed another driveway.

"It’s gonna take days, days to clean up from this," he marveled, beside himself at all the cars on the roads, even though traffic was limited to one lane in each direction due to walls of snow. "People wanna go out sightseeing. It makes our job even harder."

Pilc’s been plowing for eighty hours he figures, all the while getting frustrated that people keep going out when they don’t have to. "It’s murderous for these first responders and guys like me who are just trying to do our jobs and make it clear, so you can get your cars out when you need to go back to work."

A thaw starting Wednesday will help, but now the concern turns to flooding as all the snow melts.

David Sommerstein, a contributor from North Country Public Radio (NCPR), has covered the St. Lawrence Valley, Thousand Islands, Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill regions since 2000. Sommerstein has reported extensively on agriculture in New York State, Fort Drum’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lives of undocumented Latino immigrants on area dairy farms. He’s won numerous national and regional awards for his reporting from the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He's regularly featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Only a Game, and PRI’s The World.