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Cleanup puts fright in Halloween

The specter of blocked sidewalks and dangling tree limbs is putting a scare into some local officials and leading to a frightening dilemma:

Will storm-ravaged Erie County be too dangerous for trick-or-treaters?

Several leaders, including County Executive Joel A. Giambra, said Tuesday the cleanup from the Oct. 12-13 storm had not progressed to the point that walking the streets Halloween night would be safe for children.

"If it's at night and tress are hanging by a thread and the sidewalks are not passable and then you add to that kids in costumes that not only impede their vision but their ability to walk the streets, that ain't a real good situation," Giambra said.

So far, no community has canceled or cut back on Halloween hours, but officials from several towns did not return phone calls Tuesday about their plans for next week.

Giambra toured some of the harder-hit areas of the region Tuesday and said he was particularly concerned about the Snyder, Eggertsville and Williamsville areas in Amherst.

"The cleanup effort there is not going as smoothly as every place else. My overall concern is not putting the children and their parents in harm's way, if it can be avoided," Giambra said.

Williamsville Mayor Mary Lowther said a Halloween parade and costume judging contest scheduled for Saturday evening had been canceled because of ongoing cleanup from the storm.

"We felt it was the right decision, even though the status of the cleanup changes from day to day. One day the routes are clear, but then people start bringing debris from the backyards to the curb, and the routes are clogged again. It just didn't make sense to go forward with [the scheduled Halloween activities] this year," Lowther said.

Before the storm hit, the Village Board had authorized trick-or-treating Tuesday night in the village. That hasn't been canceled, Lowther said.

"I believe it's up to the parents' discretion," she said.

"Maybe they might want to just allow the kids to go trick-or-treat at the homes of a couple of close neighbors or arrange to have a Halloween party for them at home," Lowther said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said city officials had not made any changes in Halloween plans. But he noted that last week, he visited a child in Women and Children's Hospital who had suffered a fractured skull when a tree limb fell on his head.

"We just think families should be very careful" before sending children trick-or-treating on streets with damaged trees, he said.

Trick-or-treating still is scheduled from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Town of Lancaster, Supervisor Robert H. Giza said.

Giza said the mayors of the villages of Depew and Lancaster had asked about rescheduling trick-or-treating for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

But both also indicated parents preferred to keep trick-or-treating on Halloween.

"We're doing this with the expectation that the sidewalks will remain clear. But if we have another storm or people choose to clean out their backyards over the weekend and the sidewalks become overrun with brush, we might have to reconsider," Giza said.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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