Five days into the historic lake effect storm that many are calling Snowvember, tales of compassion, humor and selflessness continue to spread through the community. A half million people were directly affected by the storm. A half million neighbors watch, knowing that just a slight shift in the wind made them victims too.
Here are some the many storm stories that need to be told.
Poloncarz dishes out humor with news
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep.
Despite days of dealing with this week’s historic snow disaster, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has managed to keep his sense of humor – at least on Twitter. The avid Tweeter continues to come up with daily zingers that he shares on his account.
“Funny Storm tidbit from yesterday, while at group home w @NYGovCuomo a resident was happy to meet us but said, ‘I thought Obama was coming.’ ”
Then there’s this, accentuated with the emoticon smiley face:
“Interesting fact from tour with @NYGovCuomo: We drove right in front of and stopped at one point in front of @CarlPaladino’s house :)”
Poloncarz did not immediately respond to an inquiry into whether they stopped to say hello to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former gubernatorial challenger.
He’s even getting some fashion assistance from the National Guard.
“Tidbit from storm: I had a 2 star general, Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, fix my jacket collar because ‘it looked off.’ ”
This was just days after he proposed a “Griffin Scale” measuring storm severity with beer consumption, in honor of late Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin who in 1985 offered this advice for riding out a blizzard: Stay inside and grab a six-pack.
After the above post was published, Poloncarz added a rating pertinent to this week’s storm:
“The answer to question: “What 2 drink for Thundersnow on Griffin Scale?” Shot & a beer. Start w/Genny Pounder unless you already bought case”
– Tiffany Lankes
Home front loyalty
Michael Carey, a volunteer firefighter in Orchard Park, thought he had a decent shot as a professional firefighter in North Carolina. Until the storm hit last week.
He responded to the fire call in Orchard Park at 1 a.m. Tuesday as the epic storm began here, and he has been on the job ever since, ferrying medicine by snowmobile, cleaning snow off furnace vents and checking on people stuck at home. He has been working on fours hours sleep a night.
But in the middle of all this, Carey was supposed to fly to Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday to interview for a professional firefighter job. He never made it, because he was so busy helping here.
“My resources were needed more here in the town that’s given me all the training and all the work,” said Carey, 22.
But the fire chief in North Carolina said he wouldn’t hold a place for Carey because he felt obliged to choose from people who could make it. The chief urged him to apply again for another class of trainees.
Getting this far with Winston-Salem was an expensive investment. He already paid to fly down twice for a physical and an exam. The next opportunity there is probably a year away.
“I haven’t had enough time to myself for it to set in,” Carey said of his rejection. “My body’s pretty sore for being on the snowmobile for the last five days.”
Still, as a third-generation volunteer firefighter, he has no regrets. Next month, he’ll head to Baltimore to follow up on an application he put in there.
- Michelle Kearns
They got game
Nine Hamburg Gaming employees have had plenty of time to bond since Monday, when the lake-effect storm blew in and left them stuck at work for four days.
The gaming facility at the Erie County Fairgrounds, operated by Delaware North, closes at 4 a.m., but by 1 a.m. Tuesday they called in plows to make sure the final two dozen patrons could make it out OK, said general manager Ellsworth Gaskill.
Soon after that, with the storm getting even worse, the eight or nine workers who live in the Southtowns escaped for their homes, leaving behind nine from the northern suburbs who couldn’t make it out in time.
A power surge knocked out the heat for several hours Wednesday to boot.
Since Tuesday, the eight men and one woman have been sleeping on banquettes in the bar area, watching sports on a large-screen TV, borrowing fresh uniforms from the laundry, showering in the locker room and cooking meals.
“And getting to know each other better,” Gaskill said.
The employees work in security, surveillance, the money cage, food service and housekeeping.
Gaskill lives a couple of hundred yards away and has regularly checked in on the snowed-in employees, bringing supplies of clean towels, soap, toothpaste and other toiletries.
The workers haven’t passed the time by playing any of the facility’s games – they’re not allowed to, Gaskill said – and they haven’t opened any bottles of beer or booze.
– Stephen T. Watson
Good and bad business
Carl Paladino, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate, wasn’t home and wasn’t sorry when Gov. Andrew Cuomo went by his South Buffalo home on his community tour Friday.
Paladino said his dog, Duke, was annoyed to be stuck at home with him, so Paladino had a contractor dig him out and hadn’t been back home to see the dog since Thursday afternoon.
He then said he had good stories, and one bad story, to share. He also said he wanted his name left out of the stories, which was impossible because he was the one telling them.
His company, Ellicott Development, owns the Hampton Inn, Staybridge Suites and Country Inn on Slade Avenue in West Seneca, the only hotels in that part of town. They had skeleton crews and about 400 occupants, many stranded by the storm or facing other hardships.
“We had guests cleaning rooms. We had guests making breakfasts,” Paladino said. “It was really cool.”
In one case, the three hotels realized they had nine guests in desperate need of medication. So one employee made a list of everyone’s needs and sent someone else with a snowmobile to the Rite Aid on South Park Avenue. He returned with filled prescriptions.
In another case, when nursing home patients were evacuated from the Garden Gate nursing home because of structural damage to the Seneca Manor nursing home, Seneca Manor called the Staybridge Suites for last-minute, emergency supplies. Staybridge Manager Sarah Bishop sent over 40 blankets, pillows, pillow cases, toiletries and soap.
“Now I have one bad story for you,” Paladino said.
It appears the Tim Horton’s restaurant by Slade Avenue and Potters Road had been harboring a half-dozen stranded storm victims Monday. They included four Chinese women – one with a baby – and another man and woman. But at 3 a.m., the employee forced them all to leave after talking with his boss. The Chinese group struggled down Potters Road. The other two, a man and woman, struggled two blocks on Slade to get to the Hampton Inn.
“The woman was saying, ‘Just leave me. Just leave me.’ That’s how bad it was,” Paladino said.
The man didn’t leave her. He and the woman eventually showed up exhausted at the Hampton Inn.
“We took care of them,” Paladino said.
Aked if they got room discounts, Paladino said the hotel didn’t charge them anything.
– Sandra Tan
Remember how irritated you’d be when your driveway got plowed in?
Well, getting “plowed in” on Friday meant something a bit deeper in South Buffalo.
Many residents were happy to wake up to the sound of plows cutting a swath through streets that had become a 5-foot mound of snow from one end to the other.
“Hallelujah” was Ann McArthur’s reaction when she saw snow removers on Crystal Avenue.
Her son, David Montalvo, was also relieved.
“Thank God. I didn’t think we’d ever get out of here,” Montalvo said.
But others, such as an aggravated Samantha Melley on Woodside Avenue, were angered by the tremendous piles of snow left in front of their homes.
“We’re back to square one,” said Melley after three plows in a row left huge mounds in her driveway. “We’re buried again.”
She added, “The street is beautiful, but you can’t get to the outside of it.”
– Mark Sommer
It’s who you know
With police and dispatchers working long hours and with few options for food available, one local department found a family connection pretty appetizing.
Orchard Park Police Officer Kristen Mazur said she was talking to her cousin, who was worried about the roof at his family’s restaurant caving in, but he was not able to get to it. And Mazur knew it was tough trying to feed the staff, so “I called my uncle,” she said.
Dennis DiPaolo said by all means, his son could open the kitchen at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant on South Park Avenue in Blasdell and whip up a meal to help out. Mazur picked up her cousin and drove him to the restaurant, and he checked the roof and made sure everything was all right.
“I said, ‘OK, it’s a trade,’” she said.
And just like that, pasta and meatballs for several-dozen was prepared, and Mazur took it back to Orchard Park, with Police Chief Mark Pacholec footing the bill.
– Barbara O’Brien
OP gets its Beerz
George Khangi knows exactly how his customers feel, being stranded in their homes by the storm.
Khangi and his brother, Dan, own Beerz Food Shop at the corner of Chestnut Ridge and Armor roads and George Khangi came from their home in Lancaster to open up on Tuesday, the middle of the lake-effect storm. But he soon closed the store and headed home, then couldn’t go any further than West Seneca. He ended up staying at the East Seneca Volunteer Fire Company on Lein Road.
But the brothers opened the store bright and early Friday morning, much to the relief of customers. Most walked in from nearby subdivisions.
“It gets crazy, and then it calms down,” Khangi said of the rush Friday.
- Barbara O’Brien
Here comes the bride
Eleven months of wedding planning was no match for 5 feet of snow.
So Lauren Howard and Mark Partridge of Hamburg called off their wedding reception, their ceremony, the DJ, the cocktails, the photo booth and the serenading guitar player.
The only thing that will go on as planned is the marriage. Their wedding will be today at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. The church doesn’t usually allow Sunday weddings, but their priest got dispensation for an exception.
“At least we’re getting married,” said Howard, 31, a manager at Wegmans. That’s where she met Partridge, who works in produce. “I’m happy we don’t have to postpone that months and months down the road.”
When news broke Saturday morning that the Hamburg driving ban was lifted, the couple packed up and headed to hotel rooms in the city.
“We can’t wait to leave the house and just feel normal again,” said Howard, who was about to drive in.
Her mother’s friend’s hairdresser offered to do her hair. Partridge’s cousin had a friend who could do makeup. Her best friend loaned a limousine from the Amigone funeral home. The musicians in the string quartet said they could play at the church on Sunday instead. Muscoreil’s bakery agreed to switch days too and make the cake for the smaller family dinner at a Pearl Street banquet room.
“Everyone’s offering to do anything,” Howard said. “We feel so loved.”