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All Thruway exit ramps are open

For the first time in five days, it’s legal to drive in South Buffalo.

Mayor Byron W. Brown announced an end to the driving ban there today, and Lackawanna lifted its travel ban later in the evening.

“With 6 feet of snow in six days, now the driving ban has been lifted,” Brown said.

Also Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a news conference here warned people who think they may have to be evacuated because of flooding to pack a bag and be ready to leave. Cuomo also suggested people leave their homes earlier rather than later.

“Err on the side of caution,” the governor said at a news conference this morning at the Thruway Authority facility on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga.

Cuomo, who returned to Erie County today to survey storm damage and unveil plans for flood control, said the state and its local partners are ready for the flooding that weather experts say is inevitable.

“You prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that’s what we’re doing,” he told reporters. “If we’re lucky, and I said a prayer this morning, none of this will be needed.”

In town for the fifth day in a row, Cuomo also announced that the final closed exit on the Thruway – Exit 57A at Eden-Angola – would be reopened. It has since been opened.

Also, all exit and entrance ramps along the I-90 and I-190 are open, the Thruway Authority said.

As the region continued to dig out from this week’s massive lake-effect storm, one of New York’s senators called for a quick release of federal emergency funds to the storm-ravaged region.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who will be here Monday to tour the area, said her office sent letters to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for immediate approval of any recovery requests that come from New York.

State Sen.-elect Marc Panepinto of Buffalo also called for an aid package to Western New York. He wants the state to reimburse local governments for unexpected costs associated with the storm.

“The communities of Western New York have been hit hard by this winter storm and are in need of emergency aid right now,” Panepinto said in a statement.

The governor’s advice to local residents coincided with the region’s ongoing melt-off. Meteorologists say it began Saturday morning when temperatures across the region crested above freezing

for the first time in five days and will continue into Monday.

Widespread flooding is expected to follow.

“There has been a decent amount of melting,” National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Welch said this morning. “I think we’re expecting most of the melting tonight and Monday.”

Most of the snow that has melted over the past 24 hours has been absorbed by the heavy snowpack, but some has drained off, Welch said.

“It’s going to come to the point when it won’t be able to handle much more water,” he said of the snow that remains.

That threshold, Welch said, will arrive tonight or early Monday.

With temperatures expected to climb into the mid-40s today, the threat of flooding loomed large in communities such as West Seneca and Lancaster, two areas still digging out from more than 6 feet of snow.

The National Weather Service continued its flood warning for Cazenovia and Buffalo creeks in West Seneca, Cayuga Creek in Lancaster and Ellicott Creek in Williamsville, and warned motorists to avoid flooded roadways.

“Turn around. Don’t drown,” the Weather Service said in its advisory.

The rise in temperatures may be melting snow, but one of the aftereffects of this week’s massive lake effect storm – municipal travel bans – remains in effect in Lackawanna. Bans in Buffalo and Eden ended earlier today.

Addressing flooding concerns, Brown said the governor has brought in flood equipment and that the New York City Fire Department’s incident management team is in Buffalo to help.

Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr. said the New York team is assessing city streets to see which are clear and which will have issues with drainage and that the data will be used to create maps for the city.

“It’s going to help us tremendously,” Whitfield said.

Brown added: “The people of Buffalo and Western New York have truly proved again why this community is called the City of Good Neighbors."

The rising temperatures today will be joined by scattered showers and winds of up to 10 miles an hour. The Weather Service suggested residents stay inside and warned of fallen trees and power lines.

It also issued the following status reports on flooding at local creeks:

• Cayuga Creek in Lancaster, where the flood stage is 8 feet, was at 4.6 feet this morning and expected to crest at 9.4 feet Monday afternoon.

• Ellicott Creek in Williamsville, where the flood stage is 8 feet, was at 2.7 feet and is expected to crest at 9.5 feet Monday morning.

• Buffalo Creek in West Seneca, where the flood stage is 7 feet, was at 2.8 feet and is expected to crest at 7.8 feet Monday morning.

• Cazenovia Creek in West Seneca, where the flood stage is 10 feet, was at 4.2 feet and is expected to crest at 10.8 feet Monday morning. Ice pack was reported in Cazenovia Creek.

• Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda, where the flood stage is at 10 feet, was at 3.8 feet and is expected to crest at 6.6 feet Monday morning.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com, tpignataro@buffnews.com