And then the second storm hit.
After a wall of snow buried neighborhoods and towns from South Buffalo to Alden, another lake-effect storm took wider aim on Wednesday, this time starting at Niagara County, then barreling its way over Buffalo and back down to the areas already buried by 5 feet and more of snow. Another several inches of snow had fallen in hard-hit Hamburg by 6:30 a.m. this morning.
The storm was expected to mound another 2 feet over Erie County’s snow-smothered heart by the end of today.
“You know what? It is what it is,” said Dan Amatura, highway superintendent for the Town of Lancaster, where 63 inches of snow fell during the first storm Monday night and Tuesday. With plows rendered useless in chest-high snow, his workers have worked tirelessly to clear streets using bulky high-lifts.
Beyond exhausted, Amatura, like many on his crew, has been home for about a half-hour total since the storm hit to shower and brush his teeth. He has barely slept. “Last night, I dozed off in the office for a few minutes,” he said. “I’ll just keep going.”
The thick, gray lake-effect bands dissipated by lunchtime Wednesday and for a few brief hours, the sun shined and snowbound Erie County residents burrowed their way out of their homes – some through their kitchen windows – to get a first look at the mountains of white all around them.
Tips of lampposts and street signs poked through snowdrifts. Strange mounds, when brushed off, turned out to be cars. Rooftops were draped in snow. People trudged through waist-high snow to find groceries.
A bird’s-eye view of the aftermath is even more astonishing.
A modern day Man of La Mancha, undaunted by snow towering far over his head, shoveling a narrow path to the invisible street in Depew.
Tractor-trailers, one after another, idling on the snow-covered Thruway.
Ralph Wilson Stadium looking like a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
But the storm left more than a snowy wake.
A seventh death was attributed to the storm Wednesday. The most recent was an elderly man who had a heart attack and couldn’t get to a hospital because of the heavy snow. In Genesee County, a county employee died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack while snowblowing, according to the Batavian. And in Alden, a 46-year-old man was found dead inside his car, which was buried under snow. Three others died of heart attacks while shoveling and another person died while helping to move a stuck car.
Early Wednesday morning, the roof of a Cheektowaga warehouse collapsed under the weight of the snow, causing a natural gas leak and forcing caregivers at a nursing facility to move some patients to a safer area past a set of fire doors.
The Thruway remained closed from the Pennsylvania state line to Henrietta as people who had been stranded in their cars for a day and a half were finally plowed out or rescued. Other major arteries throughout the region, including portions of the Niagara Thruway and Youngmann Highway, were shut down. Travel bans were in effect in many towns and South Buffalo, where tow trucks struggled to dislodge abandoned cars so that plows could get through.
Two hundred and fifty trucks hauled more than 5,000 tons of snow out of South Buffalo and dumped it by the Central Terminal.
The hunt was on for food as many restaurants and grocery stores, including three Wegmans in the Southtowns, were closed. Lines 45 minutes long were reported at the Tops Market on Seneca Street.
School districts, including Buffalo Public Schools, were closed for a second day. Buffalo will close again today and many others were expected to follow suit.
The U.S. Postal Service suspended mail deliveries in towns and villages where driving bans were in place, and National Fuel pleaded with customers to call their service lines with emergencies.
As the National Guard arrived with heavy equipment and Humvees to help clear out snow, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came to town to assess the situation and offer assistance to the roughly half-million people in the storm’s path.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult situation,” Cuomo said at one of several news conferences Wednesday. “The amount of snow, the rate at which the snow is falling, the rate of snowfall, the weight of the snow, all conspired to make this especially difficult. It is then further compounded by having stranded vehicles on the roads, which means now you can’t access that road and you can’t plow that road until you move the car, which is a time-consuming matter.”
He commended the emergency responders and highway crews for their hard work and asked the public to help by staying off the roads.
“When we say stay at home,” he said, “we really mean stay at home. You will get stuck and further complicate the situation. It is almost inevitable.”
Cuomo said state and other personnel are planning for a “four- or five-day workload.”
While Wednesday brought story after story about misery and exhaustion, there were also tales of hope and hardiness.
At least three babies were delivered with the help of emergency responders. At 1:45 a.m., the Jamison Road Fire Co. in Elma fielded a call about a woman in labor. They arrived at her house with two snowmobiles, a six-wheel unit with tracks and a four-wheel drive SUV, said Capt. Daryl Nolan.
They used the track vehicle to get the woman to the SUV, then headed for Mercy Hospital, with snowmobiles trailing. When they got stuck, they put the mother on a snowmobile. They were blocked by a stuck vehicle when a firefighter spotted a Rural/Metro Medical Services ambulance.
“Within five minutes of getting in the ambulance, she delivered the baby,” Nolan said. It was a boy.
And then there was bizarre tale of Jay Lloyds, 58, an Australian who now lives in Toronto. He was driving back from Daytona, Fla., on Tuesday in his 1981 Porsche with no heat when he was turned away from the Thruway – and from every road he tried. He somehow ended up on small country road in Brant when he spotted a couple clearing their driveway.
With all highways toward Canada blocked, Michael Weazer, 24, and his girlfriend, Brittany Leighbody, 23, invited him to stay at their home.
Lloyds was stunned by their generosity. “Amazing,” he said Wednesday night. “Sometimes, there are good things that happen in the world. It’s not always bad.”
News Staff Reporters Robert J. McCarthy and Jay Tokasz contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org