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View of lake brings sunny outlook Day a happy contrast to 'Surprise' of 2006

The calendar may have read autumn, but with one look at the thermometer and without a Buffalo Bills game to watch, it felt like summer in Western New York on Sunday.

"It's so beautiful today," said Betty Johnson of West Seneca, who perched herself on a lawn chair and soaked up some sun at Erie Basin Marina with friend Pauline Ries of Cheektowaga. "Might as well enjoy it before the snow starts flying."

With temperatures soaring to the mid-70s, and slightly warmer weather expected for today, it was quite a different picture than what blew into town on Oct. 12, 2006 -- when the October Surprise snowstorm devastated the area.

What a difference two years make.

Sunday night on Elmwood Avenue, patrons sat outside restaurants, enjoying the warm summerlike weather. While in J.P. Bullfeathers, Carvings for a Cause was celebrating the first of what organizers hope is an annual event.

Founded by Therese Forton-Barnes, the group has worked since the storm to turn some of the more than 40,000 trees that were lost into art. Sunday night, they celebrated their success with the October Storm Anniversary Party, a fundraiser that included music, food, raffles and a silent auction featuring some of the artwork produced from the fallen trees.

As for the weather two years after the storm, Forton-Barnes said it was amazing to see people wearing shorts and flip-flops on the anniversary of the day the storm hit.

"Two years later, now we're sitting in 75-degree weather," she said. "Mother Nature at its best."

Some of the artwork displayed included bowls made from trees downed in Delaware and Cazenovia parks, Soldiers Circle and Amherst. The wood came from pear, black walnut and silver maple trees, among others. Outside Bullfeathers, statues made in the likeness of Frederick Law Olmsted and DeWitt Clinton lined the street.

Earlier in the day, the waterfront was one of many areas where people made the most of the surprising mid-October warmth.

John Fields, of Buffalo, spent part of the early afternoon taking in the view of Lake Erie near LaSalle Park. Just finishing a sandwich, Fields was eager to tout what the Buffalo waterfront can offer.

People who complain that there's nothing to do in the area are overlooking the beauty of being along the water, Fields said.

"It's one of the gems of the city," he added.

Lauren Barry, of Toronto, and Mike Osberg, from Florida, spent the weekend in the Queen City, coming in for the Buffalo Sabres' home opener Friday.

Overlooking the lake near LaSalle Park, Osberg said he has enjoyed seeing the changing leaves, something he doesn't see much of down South.

While she may have been disappointed to see the Montreal Canadiens go down to defeat in HSBC Arena, it didn't ruin Barry's whole weekend.

"It's not a day to be cooped up," she said. "Take advantage while you can."

Back at Erie Basin Marina, Annetta Miranda and Brandon Davis, of Buffalo, found a good spot on the grass with their 4-month-old daughter, Amaya.

On a typical Sunday in October, Davis said, he would usually be found watching the Bills, while Miranda said she would be surfing the Web.

Instead, they shared a little family time with a great view of Lake Erie.

"Just enjoying what seems to be the last good weekend," Miranda said.

The warm weather helped Diane and Garrett Janiak, of East Aurora, avoid some yard work, instead trading it for some time near the water with their grandchildren.

Hunter Carrow, 7, and his sister, Hannah, 5, of Springville, packed in a picnic snack around lunchtime.

"It's a beautiful day," Diane Janiak said, "and [we're] trying to enjoy the sun."

Claudia and Andy Gray, of Buffalo, on a walk in the marina, said they wished they hadn't taken their boat out of the water last weekend.

The Grays, who were pushing a stroller carrying their month-old son, Owen, said the October storm nearly coincided with their wedding day.

Luckily, they were married the weekend before and were on their honeymoon when the storm hit, they said.

Like many other people near the water Sunday, Bob Harris and Marcia Sikes-Harris, of Buffalo, came prepared with a good book and a magazine.

Regulars at the marina, they said Buffalonians should be happy with the weather. After all, there have been almost twice as many sunny days here as in Orlando this year.

"This is wonderful," Harris said. "We're taking advantage of every day."

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com and hjones@buffnews.com

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