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Sending out snow SOS worked, village official agrees

In the three weeks since Depew dug itself out from 40 inches of lake-effect snow, the village's emergency manager still marvels how quickly crews from neighboring towns came to the rescue with plows -- and enthusiasm.

Asking other communities for help, as Depew officials decided early the morning of Dec. 2, is something Michael Moskal will consider from the start next time a fierce storm comes.

"When I got home at 8 o'clock, I had Town of Tonawanda plows and crews on my street. It was a huge comfort to me," said Moskal, Depew's volunteer director of emergency management. "It was a single phone call, and they were there."

While the Thruway Authority and City of Buffalo were criticized for sluggish responses to the Dec. 1 storm, Depew officials dodged the complaints.

"All in all, I think we did a good job getting the roads open," said Deputy Mayor Linda Hammer. "We did have a lot of problems with vehicles that were stuck . It was rough. I'm not going to say it wasn't. I think we fared rather well."

Moskal, who helped coordinate Police, Fire and Public Works departments efforts, credits two things that worked as the village made its way through the storm:

* Declaring an emergency and banning unnecessary road traffic relatively quickly, before other neighbors did, at 11 p.m. Wednesday. This was about six hours after the heavy snow began. At first Moskal wondered if Depew had acted too quickly. But it worked because crews were more easily able to keep major routes clear -- some 20 or 30 tractor-trailers had to be moved or towed that night -- on Transit Road, Walden Avenue and Broadway.

* Deciding during a Thursday morning meeting with the mayor and related departments, to ask for help. All Erie County municipalities are part of a mutual-aid agreement to respond in times of need.

Yet, Moskal, who was disaster coordinator from 1983 to 1995 and took the post again in 2008, said this was the first time he tried it. He strategically called on towns that were not in the storm's heavy snow path.

By 10:30 a.m., within about an hour of the first call, the first crew arrived from Amherst. Altogether, they sent 10 people, four plow trucks and two front-end loaders. The Town of Tonawanda drove in two plows and a crew of five.

"We made the decision to reach out, and I think it helped us greatly," Moskal said.


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