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Cold front blasts heat wave out of Western New York

The sky became charcoal-gray at about dinner time. Winds picked up. Then a train of ferocious thunderstorms raced through Buffalo Niagara on Friday evening.

Fueled by the collision of a strong cold front with the weeklong oppressive heat and humidity that melted the region, the storms slammed areas of Niagara and northern Erie counties.

The fierce storms knocked down power lines and trees, left thousands of utility customers in the dark and canceled concerts and other events across the area.

At its heaviest, the rain was falling at a 2-inches-per-hour clip, the National Weather Service reported.

More than 2 inches of rain was reported along the Erie and Niagara county border as of 9:40 p.m., with at least another inch of rain expected by midnight from more storms.

That prompted flash flood warnings in the area by the National Weather Service.

Even more rounds of strong thunderstorms were trekking eastward from southern Ontario toward the Niagara Frontier as the evening wore on, including in the Buffalo metro area and points south of the city, where lightning was frequently streaking through the sky.

Authorities in Niagara County were coping with the worst of the fallout from the storms. The Sheriff’s Office summoned additional deputies and other personnel to assist crews already on duty. Sheriff’s officials reported 911 lines countywide were “ringing nonstop.”

In Cambria, there were numerous reports of trees and power lines on the ground. Flooding was also reported at several places along Lockport Road.

Fire crews from Wendelville were on the scene of a fire at a home that was struck by lightning in the 4900 block of Cloverleaf Lane off Campbell Boulevard in Pendleton, Niagara County sheriff’s officials reported. Wendelville firefighters were also at a Mapleton Road home for the report of six feet of water in a basement.

Niagara Falls International Airport reported a 66 mph wind gust just after 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, almost 4,000 National Grid customers remained without power shortly before midnight in Erie County, mostly in the Town of Amherst and in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda, along with 2,100 NYSEG customers in the Town of Lancaster, 500 more in Clarence and scattered outages in other areas.

There were almost 9,000 National Grid customers out in Niagara County along with 750 NYSEG customers in Lockport.

The wild weather shut down several concert venues around the area, including the Jonas Brothers at Darien Lake in Genesee County, the final production of “The Sound of Music” at Artpark, where power went out, and the much-anticipated Tragically Hip concert at the Outer Harbor.

The nasty weather was spawned by the collision of the passing cold front with the hot and steamy air that has lingered here all week.

There will, however, be no sweating in the shade today.

It’ll feel less like Houston, New Orleans or Savannah and a lot more like summertime in Buffalo.

Perfect timing, too.

There will be plenty to do around the region today after the morning showers give way to a fair afternoon skies and you finish that outdoor yard work you’ve been putting off all week:

• For starters, Hamburg’s annual Burgerfest, celebrating the supposed birthplace of the hamburger in 1885, kicks off at noon today.

• The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will play a free concert in an evening of activity starting at 5 p.m. along Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

• The inaugural wooden boat show – a cooperative effort by the Buffalo Maritime Center, Niagara Frontier Antique and Classic Boat Chapter – will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Canalside.