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Wind-swept areas assess damage; Niagara County suffers biggest toll with downed trees and power outages

The windstorm that ripped through Western New York on Thursday left traces of its fury across the region on Friday, including two scarred Town of Tonawanda golf courses, a tattered cemetery near Youngstown and clogged streets in several communities.

Gale-force winds that reached 83 mph in parts of the region took their toll on recreational facilities in the Town of Tonawanda -- most notably, the netting at Brighton Golf Driving Range.

"The netting is lost," said Daniel J. Wiles, director of the town's Youth, Parks and Recreation Department, who estimated it will now cost between $50,000 and $100,000 to replace it.

Trees were lost in Lincoln Park and at the Brighton and Sheridan Park golf courses, Wiles added.

The extent of the destruction seemed greatest in Niagara County.

Late Friday, Norman D. Allen, City of Lockport director of public works and engineering, said parts of five streets -- Pound, Prentice, Chestnut, Prospect and Waterman -- were still closed because of downed wires.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said in several locations, limbs were hanging dangerously "because they hit something on the way down."

He said the northern parts of the city, especially streets such as Prospect and Church, seemed to be the hardest hit.

"We have a lot of devastation. It's going to be a few weeks before we get caught up," Tucker said.

In Niagara Falls, Deputy Public Works Commissioner John Caso said five crews with a total of 25 workers, not counting supervisors, managed to reduce about 20 closed streets to one -- a single block of Pierce Avenue.

Michael F. Tracy, Niagara County deputy public works commissioner for highways, said West Somerset Road between Hartland and Quaker roads in Somerset was closed because of a threatening condition with power lines.

"There's no lines down, but the poles are leaning over the road," he said.

The storm wreaked havoc in the most historic section of the Oakland Rural Cemetery on Lake Road in the Town of Porter, with graves dating back to 1821. Winds toppled at least a half-dozen, 100-foot trees in the scenic, hilltop area, knocking over some headstones and obscuring others with heavy brush.

The extent of the damage is yet to be determined because the graves were inaccessible, said Raymond Dietz, president of the Oakland Rural Cemetery Association.

Dietz returned to the cemetery Friday with his wife, Suzanne Simon Dietz, Porter historian, to survey the damage.

The graveyard contains a who's-who of locally historic names.

"Until the mid-1880s, municipalities did not keep records of births or deaths," Suzanne Dietz said, explaining that the headstones act "as a historical record of local citizens. That's why this is important."

"The great irony is that we had been doing our spring cleanup in this section and it was nice and tidy," added her husband, who left the cemetery Thursday just 30 minutes before the winds started leveling the trees. "We've had a big pine tree go over before on the east side [in the woods], but we've never had anything like this happen here."

Friday started with more than 11,000 Niagara County households still without power from the storm. Lockport schools closed, which gave some relief to crews clearing streets of debris.

National Grid doubled its normal work force to help restore power to customers, but utility officials warned that failures may continue into today for a few customers.

This morning's annual Beautify Niagara spring cleanup, which already had been scheduled for 8 a.m. starting in front of the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, has been turned into a post-storm cleanup as well, Mayor Paul A. Dyster announced late Friday.

News Staff Reporters Maki Becker and Janice Habuda and News Niagara Correspondent Teresa Sharp contributed to this report.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com