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SNOW, SLEET SLASH ACROSS MOST OF WNY FIRST WINTRY STORM BRINGS ACCIDENTS AND POWER FAILURES

Western New Yorkers shivered and skidded through their first wintry storm of the season this morning as snow, sleet and strong winds touched off several traffic accidents and cut power to homes.

Police reported a collision between a Carrier Coach bus and a car in West Seneca, five multicar pileups on the Kensington Expressway and a traffic accident with minor injuries in North Collins. Snow and sleet swept into the Southern Tier about 5 a.m. and moved into Buffalo about 6:45 a.m., said Richard Webber, a National Weather Service meteorologist at Greater Buffalo International Airport.

Early forecasts indicated as much as 6 inches of snow might fall in the Buffalo area before turning to sleet or freezing rain, Webber said.

"We could have some significant accumulation of snow in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee and Niagara counties," Webber said. "Most of all of New York State should be affected. Then it will move into New England tonight."

Temperatures were in the low 30s in Buffalo this morning but were expected to rise into the high 30s later today, Webber said. Storm warnings were issued for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Power was cut to 3,500 homes and businesses in Holland, Colden, Sardinia and surrounding communities about 6 a.m. because of transmission difficulties, said John Voss, manager of the East Aurora office of New York State Electric and Gas Corp. Holland Central Schools canceled classes for 1,350 students in the high, middle and elementary schools because of the power loss.

The malfunction may have been set off by high winds, but Voss said the company could not immediately determine the cause.

Power was also cut off for 2,000 customers in Allegany County and 200 in Niagara County. But all power was restored in Allegany County by 7:30 a.m., and crews were expected to restore power in Niagara County by late morning, said E. Alfred Osborne, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. spokesman.

Meanwhile, police across the region reported cars sliding off roadways and a number of collisions.

In the Carrier Coach crash, a car slid across the center line and collided with the bus about 7:25 a.m. at Transit Road and Seneca Street, West Seneca police said. The bus driver, Louis Cervola, 39, of 265 Garry Drive, West Seneca, was treated in Mercy Hospital and released.

Cheektowaga police reported five multicar pileups on the Kensington, the most serious a 10-car crash that occurred in the westbound lane near the Thruway. No serious injuries were reported, and traffic was cleared.

"It's been mostly fender benders," said an official at the Erie County Sheriff's Department. "There are a lot of cars coming off the roads."

"Traffic is moving, and they aren't experiencing a whole lot of accidents," said Patrick O'Reilly, a State Police spokesman.

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