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South Buffalo Day 2: 230 truckloads of snow removed so far

The 24-hour snow removal operation in South Buffalo made some progress, but it’s slow going and there still a “long way to go,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said today.

With 90 pieces of equipment from the city, the state and private contractors, the main roads in South Buffalo are now open for emergency traffic only, and snow removal operations are now headed to secondary and then residential streets, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.

The situation, however, remains challenging, with as many as 10 emergency medical calls backed up this morning.

“The calls are triaged,” said Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. “We are getting there are fast as we can.”

As of this morning, there were no snow-related fatalities in Buffalo, Whitfield said. But ambulances are still unable to reach many houses, resulting in crews hiking to homes, and carrying people on gurneys back to ambulances parked on the main roads.

“It’s a common occurrence,” the fire commissioner said.

The commissioner said fire crews are doing everything from monitoring pregnant women in firehouses, to being asked to find a special formula needed for twins.

The city now has 18 snowmobiles, many on loan from the state, that are helping with emergency calls, Brown said.

The driving ban and limited state of emergency remains in effect in South Buffalo, Brown said, as the city continues towing vehicles stranded in the 5-feet mounds of snow crippling South Buffalo.

About 100 vehicles were towed as of this morning, said Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer.

It’s difficult to say how many stranded vehicle remain since some are buried in snow, Brown said.

At one point, there were 70 people stranded in South Buffalo, officials said. The number was down to five, with emergency crews able to get the people home or to hospitals. But this morning, another 12 people were reported stranded, police said.

Apparently some people from the suburbs attempted driving into South Buffalo, in violation of the city’s driving ban, and got stuck, officials said.

“People are driving in from other municipalities and it has to stop,” Brown said.

The vehicles stuck on the roads are the biggest impediment to getting roads cleared, Stepniak said. The roads generally cannot be plowed because of the vehicles. Instead snow is being high-lifted and trucked out.

Stepniak said more than 230 truck loads of snow – or more than 5,000 tons – have been removed from South Buffalo, much of it being trucked to a portion of the Central Terminal property.

There are 90 pieces of equipment operating in Buffalo – some city owned, some state owned and some from private contractors, Stepniak said.

“It’s a haul and removal operation,” he said.

The state has already loaned Buffalo one highlift, and the city is asking for more, Brown said.

The mayor also said he has heard from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who will help the city with an application for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help defray some of the storm costs.

Brown and other city officials said city crews have been working long hours. Some he said, including Stepniak, haven’t slept in the past 24 hours.

City officials said another snow removal update would be made in later this afternoon.

Residents were out shoveling out their homes and cars, under sunny skies but deceptively cold 20-degree temperatures.

Trails made by snow blowers remained the only paths on some smaller residential streets.

“They came down once last night with the snowblower. This is just what they did again,” said Fran McIver, as she pointed to the pathway her husband and a friend were cutting with a snowblower on Midland Street, off McKinley Parkway.

“That’s my car,” she said, pointing to a Kia Soul mostly lost in white fluff. “And I’m not planning on going to work until maybe Sunday.”

That could be optimistic, since she works at the Wal-Mart in Hamburg, also buried in snow.

McIver said she and her husband were also keeping an eye on two elderly neighbors – one 85 and the other 92 - who live across the street.

They’re both OK, McIver said.

At Engine 6, more than two dozen firefighters were on hand, many in the middle of 24-hour shifts. A firefigher said the station had been busy responding to people who developed health problems exerting themselves by shoveling, including two who suffered heart attacks. The firefighters also helped push vehicles stuck in snow and responded to two challenging fires on the East Side.

- Susan Schulman and Mark Sommer