As reporters aboard a Thruway Authority dump truck trailed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Friday on a tour of snow-socked Buffalo and its suburbs, Jim Fink of Business First may have best described the scene outside.
“It’s just eerie, isn’t it?” he asked.
There were 10- and 12-foot canyons along the Thruway in Lackawanna, a virtually buried house in Orchard Park, and Ralph Wilson Stadium sporting a new ivory-hued interior. It all combined to paint an almost surreal picture for the governor.
But Cuomo was encouraged by what he saw, especially as more than 1,300 pieces of heavy equipment all seemed to successfully move snow measured in feet off the road and into piles or waiting dump trucks.
“It has really made me proud and it’s been heartwarming to see how generous New Yorkers can be,” he said, listing equipment sent to Buffalo from Rochester, Syracuse, Long Island and New York City.
“They have been some of the shortest phone calls I have ever had,” he added. “I say ‘Buffalo’ and they say ‘What do you need?’ ”
As Cuomo’s convoy represented the only through traffic on a lonely Thruway Friday morning, he saw dozens of payloaders and dump trucks scraping up snow in preparation for a 3 p.m. reopening. Along Potters Road in West Seneca, he viewed huge mounds of snow in the middle of the street obscuring cars and trucks underneath before encountering City of Syracuse dump trucks and a cadre of National Guardsmen clearing emergency lanes alongside South Buffalo’s Mercy Hospital.
“We know you have been killing yourself for days and not slept for days, but it is truly and deeply appreciated,” the governor said, accompanied by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Mayor Byron W. Brown. “People would have died without you.”
Cuomo passed out coffee and doughnuts to the troops, dropped by an Orchard Park group home to visit with disabled residents and their marooned director, and commended more Guard soldiers and airmen working heavy equipment along Lake Avenue in Orchard Park.
The governor’s entourage cruised by a stretch of auto dealerships along Southwestern Boulevard, all resembling mini-mountain ranges as hundreds of new cars were buried under the snow. Then he found more Guardsmen clearing away the intersection of Lake and Lakewood avenues.
“If you guys had not been here, it would have been worse,” he told them, ticking off a list of hurricane names like Sandy, Irene and Lee that consumed many of his previous days as governor.
Cuomo logged his third consecutive day in Buffalo monitoring the storm, spending Wednesday night here before going home Thursday and returning Friday morning. He lamented the loss of 12 lives at just about every stop he made on Friday, and warned of still more dangerous days ahead as flood fears mount.
But he seemed to brighten at Brown’s recitation of staggering snow-removal statistics, including the removal of 32,000 tons of snow from South Buffalo streets over the past few days.
“If you know somebody who wants to buy some snow,” Cuomo told several Guardsmen, “tell them we can give you a pretty good deal.”