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The party's over -- after 6 months of record warmth, snow arrives

The first flakes of the season fell as Norm Daruszka retrieved a roadside sign announcing an Election Day breakfast Tuesday in South Wales Presbyterian Church.

"I feel it's right on time," Daruszka said of the snow. "We just had a very long summer."

After six months of record warmth, chilly air raked Western New York, scooping up moisture from Lake Erie and dropping it as rain, snow or hail, depending on where you were.

For the areas close to the lake, it was almost all rain. In downtown Buffalo, the rain fell steadily, accompanied at times by small hail and flashes of lightning.

But inland a few miles, the rain turned to hail or snow. By evening, 2 1/2 inches of snow had fallen at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga. Storm totals were much higher in the higher elevations of southern Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

The heavy, water-laden snow proved too much for a number of tree branches in the Southern Tier, which brought down power lines, causing scattered outages in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

The hardest hit area was the Town of Chautauqua, where nearly 1,600 customers of National Grid remained without power late Tuesday evening. Power was expected to be restored to all areas of the county by midnight, according to company estimates.

There were about 135 customers without power throughout Cattaraugus County and 24 more in Wyoming County, the utility reported.

As could be expected, the slick roads also resulted in a number of accidents as vehicles struggled to stay on the slippery pavement.

Two truckers escaped serious injury when the tractor-trailer they were riding in veered off the right side of Interstate 86 in North Harmony just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, Chautauqua County sheriff's officials reported.

Stanley C. Lindeen, 64, of Shelton, Wash., was driving the rig when it struck a guardrail and bounced back across the highway, striking another guardrail.

Lindeen and a passenger, 38-year-old Cecil H.P. Faircloth, also of Shelton, who was sleeping in the cab, were treated at the scene and released. No charges were filed.

Route 219 in Orchard Park also was the site of several minor traffic incidents. Snow and slush on the roadway led to a number of cars leaving the road, according to Orchard Park Police Officer Jeff Heeb. Heeb said a woman was not seriously injured in one such incident at about 5 p.m. near Newton Road.

In the higher elevations of Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, snow began falling in the morning and accumulating on roads, fields and lawns.

Sheriff's officials in Cattaraugus County said the northwest portion of the county seemed to bear the brunt of the storm, with some trees down. A few fender benders or cars off the road were reported in Chautauqua, Allegany and Wyoming counties, police reported.

One of the highest accumulations was in South Dayton, where a National Weather Service observer reported eight inches had fallen by late afternoon. Meteorologists were still awaiting updated totals from snow spotters in the Southern Tier late Tuesday.

"It wasn't that bad," said Bob Giannini, of Bob G's Garage in South Dayton. "The first snow, when the ground is warm, it makes that slush underneath, the glazed stuff, and people won't slow down for it."

With snow falling much of the day, Giannini said he was busy with some cars off the road.

"I'm a one-man garage and I put on 22 snow tires," Giannini said. "My back is just screaming."

Snow fell steadily throughout the day in southern Erie County.

In South Wales, Daruszka said snow was sticking to the ground on top of Warner Hill. Down on Route 16, it wasn't.

By about 9 p.m. Tuesday, winds had shifted and were more northwesterly sending the snow bands out of southern Erie and Wyoming counties back to the Southern Tier.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Ansuini said snow would persist in portions of the Southern Tier through this afternoon. Up to eight more inches of locally heavy snow was forecasted.

In the highest elevations, Ansuini said, there might be as much as a foot and a half of snow before it ends, but the snow probably won't stay long.

"It will warm in the lower 40s by Thursday, and it looks like we'll be back in the 50s by Monday," he said.

News Staff Reporter T.J. Pignataro contributed to this report.

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

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