Extreme winds forced many school districts to cancel classes Friday and ushered in what looks to be one of the coldest days of winter so far.
Temperatures plummeted nearly 50 degrees from 1:37 a.m. Friday, when Buffalo tied the 123-year-old high temperature record for the date at 61 degrees, to a projected overnight low of 12 degrees. Wind chills today are projected to be around zero.
The cold front announced its arrival Friday morning with wind gusts that peaked at 54 mph at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga shortly after 6 a.m. Lockport's peak gust was 62 mph, while a 60 mph gust was recorded in Hamburg.
Winds were worse elsewhere. A gust of 77 mph was recorded at Rochester's airport, and along nearby Irondequoit Bay, a tree fell on a passing car, killing a 52-year-old woman.
In Saratoga Springs, high winds topped a tree onto a pickup truck, killing a state Transportation Department worker.
In the Finger Lakes community of Gorham, a tree fell on a school bus, but none of the 12 students aboard was injured.
No wind-related fatalities were reported in Western New York, where many children awoke to the news they didn't have to go to school.
Among the school districts that closed was West Seneca Central, where Superintendent James Brotz said authorities decided to err on the side of student safety.
"We had 60 mph winds at one of our high school weather stations," he said, adding that smaller students could get pushed around by such gusts.
A seiche developed in Lake Erie as high winds artificially increased the water levels at the Buffalo end, but the surge wasn't as big as forecasters thought it might be.
"We didn't have classic conditions," said Tony Ansuini, National Weather Service meteorologist. "The lake rose about 4 feet [at Buffalo Harbor] with the initial surge around 6 a.m."
The surge brought levels to within 2 feet of the harbor's 8-foot flood stage.
Ansuini said the high water level and large waves caused problems along the lakeshore in Hamburg. "With the 15-foot waves, we did get some beach erosion and high water spray on Route 5," he said.
Heavy winds delayed some flights, both arriving and departing, at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Passengers coming in Friday morning reported bumpy rides.
The winds forced five planes to temporarily circle Albany International Airport until the storm front passed through shortly before noon.
"As soon as we came through the clouds, we had a couple big dips like a roller-coaster," said Jason Dilwith, 25, an engineer who was flying in from Buffalo.
The fierce winds caused garbage totes to topple like bowling pins in some communities, creating messy situations.
In Kenmore, extra crews were dispatched to deal with blowing debris.
In Buffalo, high winds caused the most problems with the city's small blue recycling bins, Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra said, although many of the larger garbage totes also blew over.
The totes can weather fairly strong winds, Giambra said, but aren't designed to withstand gusts exceeding 50 mph. Containers that could stand during those kind of winds would require holes to let the air pass through, he said, "and then you would have rat problems."
News Staff Reporters Emma Sapong and Brian Meyer, and News wire services contributed to this report.