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More snow stories from the snow-weary

The third storm day in November brings more stories of creativity, kindness and perseverance among those still digging out. And it brings ongoing insight into what people consider the basics of living.

Here are some of those stories, gathered by our team of journalists Thursday:


Special delivery

Bryan Tramontana threw on the four-way flashers of his Dodge Ram pickup truck in the middle of Lake Street in Hamburg.

“I figured this lot would have been plowed,” he said. “Oh, well. Just gotta walk.”

Tramontana trudged through waist-high snow for about five minutes before reaching Hamburg Pharmacy. He was picking up prescriptions to deliver to a homebound resident and someone stuck at a Camp Road motel.

It was the latest in a stretch of volunteer work by Tramontana, who earlier this week had delivered specially mixed baby formula to a parent, taken a stranded expectant mother through a whiteout to her relative’s home in Orchard Park and gotten a patient to a hospital for methadone maintenance treatment.

“I wasn’t sure about this Dodge when I got it,” said Tramontana, who has used the Town of Hamburg and police and Facebook to find volunteering opportunities. “I am now. It’s gotten me through everything.”

Owner and pharmacist Karl Fruehauf, who was filling the prescriptions at Hamburg Pharmacy with co-worker Jen Rosiek, had not been home since Monday morning. He stayed overnight at the pharmacy Monday before a customer offered him a place to stay after work Tuesday and Wednesday.

While call-ins have continued, pickups have been few and far between during the storm. Some of the business has been transferred to Hamburg Pharmacy, with many other nearby pharmacies closed because of the storm.

– Geoff Nason


Dirty Harry marquee

Three-day-old snow piles in East Aurora, now as tall as the 5-foot, 3-inch owner of the Aurora Theatre and still piling up, prompted worry about snow on the vintage marquee, a walk along Main Street with shovels and, finally, comic relief:

“GO AHEAD MOTHER NATURE MAKE MY DAY,” the sign now proclaims instead of the Hunger Games sequel that was supposed to open Thursday.

“My husband said, ‘You know, I think we need to get a good message on here about all this,’ ” said Lynn Kinsella. After a few minutes of mulling, they came up with their Clint-Eastwood-inspired phrase, fetched a ladder and put up the letters.

While the sign attracted lots of attention on Facebook “likes” and “shares” mounted to 156, there was no one nearby to see it.

“It’s a ghost town on Main Street,” Kinsella said.

The street was clear enough for the mile walk from her house on Linden Avenue, but the sidewalks are impassable. Kinsella didn’t open the theater even though someone called Wednesday to ask for a movie to entertain employees waiting out the storm at the Hampton Inn. “You look out your window,” she said, “you really don’t get a full picture of what’s going on.”

Once they arrived at the theater, the marquee had a few wet neon tubes but didn’t seem too burdened by the snow. “It’s standing. It’s up there. We’re good right now,” Kinsella said. “When it starts to melt, we’re going to try to get some of the snow off it.”

If things improve, they may try to open the theater today.

– Michelle Kearns


Saving a Spartan

The D’Youville Spartans men’s basketball team got off to a slow start this year, losing its first two games by a combined 95 points.

Imagine how much worse it would have been playing without a coach.

Luckily, that won’t happen, partly because coach Earl Schunk was easily recognized Thursday afternoon by a friendly passing motorist/photographer.

Schunk was standing on Harlem Road in South Cheektowaga on Thursday when Buffalo News photographer John Hickey spotted him and called his name. Schunk likewise recognized Hickey and said he would be happy to take a ride where he was going: the Walmart on Harlem and Walden Avenue.

“I couldn’t get a ride from my house as we still have 5 feet of snow in the street,” he said later. “It would’ve been about 2.5 miles to Walmart, but I was sick of sitting in my house and shoveling out the same 3 foot area so I could open my back door and knock snow off my DirecTV satellite dish.”

Waiting for him at Walmart was Ronnie Ashton, who played for Schunk at Grover Cleveland when he coached there. Ashton offered to pick him up to take him to the D’Youville campus near the Peace Bridge to prepare for a trip to Rochester for a game Saturday.

The plan worked. Schunk made it to school, is staying at the home of another former player, Raysean Johnson, and should be able to make it to Rochester for the game Saturday.

– Bruce Andriatch


Who needs sleep?

County Executive Mark Poloncarz looked rested on Day Three of the winter storm. You would never guess that this storm-watcher suffered from sleep deprivation, though he did sound a little cranky at some press events.

Dressed in a navy V-neck sweater and white button-down shirt, Poloncarz said he had slept only 12 hours since Monday when the storm roared into Western New York.

Late Thursday afternoon, the county executive appeared to be handling his grueling schedule well, overseeing a storm-management effort that at one point involved 5,000 workers.

The snow machine was winding down and the temperatures will warm up, but there may not be much rest in Poloncarz’s future. Starting soon, he will be on flood watch.

– Jane Kwiatkowski


The long way

They couldn’t get there from here. So they had to get there from somewhere else.

Staff members of the Visiting Nursing Association were managing their home care clients well in some snow areas, with some nurses walking through the piles of snow to reach homebound patients, according to Michael Hughes, spokesman for Kaleida Health. A third of VNA clients live alone.

But walking wouldn’t work for people far south of Buffalo, now almost unreachable with the Thruway, and parts of Routes 5 and 20 closed.

“We had to get a driver with medication to Dunkirk, so we sent him through Rochester,” Hughes said. “Obviously, that is the long way.”

– Melinda Miller


Bare necessities

South Buffalo convenience stores have never been more popular than during this storm. And some staples South Buffalonians were unwilling to do without.

The Noco Express, on McKinley Parkway near Bailey Avenue, was the only business in the area open, and Jeffrey Follick was there, taking a break from snow that reaches up to his shoulders at his house.

He needed cigarettes and beer.

“It’s been hell,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 7-Eleven on South Park Road was largely depleted.

“Milk’s gone. Sandwiches, salads. Soups, pastas – everything’s basically gone,” said clerk Margaret White.

Asked if people were buying beer, White said, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah,” her voice fading into a laugh.

– Mark Sommer and Lou Michel


What snow day?

At the 88-year-old Gow School in South Wales, one broken snowblower was not going to keep the school from its unblemished record of zero snow days.

The boarding and day school for boys and girls with dsylexia-related learning disabilities solved the broken snowblower problem with 75 shovels handed out to volunteers among the 150 kids, mostly boarders from seventh through 12th grade.

“We moved the snow and we got to class,” said Brad Rogers, headmaster. “We’ve never had a snow day.”

– Michelle Kearns


Eggless in Eden

Eden’s ShurFine Food Mart had the rare commodity of milk Thursday, but eggs were barely making it through the front door.

“We do have milk, an order came in this morning,” said Sue Niedermeier, ShurFine’s bookkeeper.

Eggs were another matter. A Meadowbrook Farms truck arrived, and as the delivery man walked into the store carrying one tote of eggs, customers were on him before he even got inside.

“The eggs went out as fast as they came in,” she said. “As he walked in the door, people were grabbing them fast.”

The store is hoping for a fresh shipment of food today.

– Karen Robinson


Taking a dip

Shoppers arrived at the Tops on South Park Avenue in Hamburg on Thursday by foot, wearing head-to-toe snow gear and pulling sleds to stock up. As previously noted, staples of life – milk, eggs, bread and beer – were hard to find.

But South Buffalonians are apparently very picky about their chip dip.

There were lots of dip choices still available, with one notable exception, which was obvious by the dark hole it left on the refrigerator shelves: Bison French Onion Dip.

Only the best for South Buffalo.

– Brian Connolly


Lost and found

Carriers of The Buffalo News strive to get the newspaper to subscribers on time every morning, and for many this week that meant braving blustery storm conditions.

That’s what happened to Kevin Moriarty, who was working his route in Hamburg early Tuesday morning when he became stranded and started walking, looking for shelter.

He called in to his supervisors at 3 a.m. on his way back from his route. But after that, no one heard from him until 2 p.m. when they learned he was still stranded and disoriented. Family and fellow employees called police, but were told there was little more officers could do to locate him.

So they took matters into their own hands.

“They were all worried; they thought something happened to him,” said Matt Malante. “I was walking miles last night looking for him.”

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that Moriarty made it to a store, where Malante went to rescue him.

“He’s fine,” Malante said. “Tired, hungry, exhausted, but we found him.”

– Tiffany Lankes


Room at the inn

Roycroft Innkeeper Martha Augat has welcomed a very odd assortment of guests these past few days. Monday’s snowfall resulted in 20 vacant rooms at the 28-room inn selling out in 20 minutes.

While some guests checked out Tuesday, some of those who tried to leave were forced to return after being turned back by road closures.

“We re-sold those rooms to people who didn’t have power or people who were traveling and then got stranded,” she said, adding that the few empty rooms left today would probably go to weary plow drivers.

For awhile, it was only slightly warmer inside the inn than it was outside. On Wednesday, a broken furnace (now fixed) led temperatures in the lobby to plummet to 44 degrees. The upper-floor bedrooms were still a warm 70 degrees. Even so, bored guests came downstairs in hats, coats and gloves to watch TV weather news and chat.

“They hung out, they got to know each other,” Augat said. “We have a skeleton crew. Guests have been seeing the same six people.”

– Michelle Kearns


Planner’s dreamscape

All those urban planners who envision “walkable neighborhoods” in the nation’s great cities might hardly contain their delight Thursday on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

Hundreds of people from the South Buffalo neighborhood were afoot in force even before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo arrived to tour the area late in the morning. Then again, with some snow piles cresting at 25 or 30 feet above the pavement along vast stretches, there was just no room for a car.

Melissa Mune was among those out gathering supplies for elderly neighbors, even if she had her own concerns.

“My balcony is about to collapse and I’m going to have to replace about six windows,” she said, “but what the heck?”

And as dozens of city, county, Cattaraugus County and National Guard pieces of heavy equipment began attacking the area’s main drag, neighborhood kids took every opportunity to complicate the process – sledding down the massive piles into Seneca Street.

– Robert McCarthy


More wings, please

The snowstorm that piled on the snow and led to a driving ban in East Aurora this week did not stop people from walking and motoring by snowmobile to the Bar Bill Tavern, where the wing supply may run out by the weekend.

Clark Crook, owner of the bar famous for its wings with evenly distributed, brush-applied sauce, said, “We haven’t had a food delivery since Monday.”

Customers have walked, snowshoed and snowmobiled to the cozy Main Street watering hole where customer beer mugs hang over the bar top. The number of snowmobiles has ranged from a dozen to the six Crook counted Wednesday.

The bar crowd has been distinctly local.

“Friends and neighbors having a chance to get together in the storm is kind of fun,” said Crook.

The bar has shortened its hours, closing at 10 p.m. instead of its usual 2 a.m., and has shoveled out just enough to keep business going.

“We have a little footpath to our door,” Crook said. “We’re doing as best we can.”

– Michelle Kearns


Define ‘fun’

Sheffield Avenue in South Buffalo is still unplowed and smothered in snow. The conditions have been a challenge to Michael and Tina Woods, who have two kids, Zachary, 7, and Emalee, 2.

But the kids don’t see it that way.

It took Michael Woods two days to reach South Buffalo after leaving Corfu when the storm was beginning. He parked their car in the Mercy Hospital parking ramp.

While the two parents worried about the fact that they were running low on milk, bread, diapers and medicine, and wondering when the plow would finally pass, their son, Zachary, was heaving snowballs.

“Everyone under 10 is having a good time, everyone over 10 is like, ‘Oh my God!’ ” Tina Woods said, laughing.

– Mark Sommer


No firehouse baby

If there was one West Seneca resident working more furiously than most to clear his driveway off a Union Road side street Thursday, it was probably George Smierciak.

His wife is due to give birth on Monday, and Smierciak was determined to keep a path to the hospital open.

“She’s a little nervous,” he said, “but I’m just trying to keep her calm and the driveway cleared.”

He’s determined that his baby won’t be born in a South Buffalo firehouse like the one who made the news on Wednesday.

“What a story that would be,” he said.

– Robert McCarthy