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Winds, waves and water create havoc around Buffalo

The wreckage of a zombie paintball shooting gallery lay in two soggy piles near the Commercial Slip at Canalside.

Planks of wood, tarps and pieces of fencing sat scattered across the ground early in the afternoon, three hours after high winds forced Lake Erie’s waters up along the banks.

There was little to salvage from the Halloween-themed fair that was ramping up for this big weekend.

“It looks like a hurricane,” said Andrew Kozlowski, owner of Black Morgue Manors.

Buffalo’s downtown waterfront was one of many places hit hard by a pre-Halloween wind storm that knocked out power, pushed over trees and utility poles and made being outside in Western New York pretty miserable on Thursday.

At one point, close to 7,000 customers were without power. In Orchard Park and East Aurora, the loss of electricity affected schools. A volunteer firefighter’s house in Corfu was destroyed thanks to a wind-driven fire, according to The Batavian.

South Buffalo’s Kyle Fenske and his wife, Molly, were among those who had a rough morning.

Part of a large tree outside their home at McKinley Parkway and Como Avenue crashed down onto their roof and into their sunroom.

“It came down pretty much right on the corner of the house,” Kyle Fenske said.

The tree left a hole 1- to 2-feet in diameter in the roof and two holes in the sunroom. It’s now covered with a tarp to keep out the rain that has begun to fall.

Kyle Fenske was in the shower when the tree split and tumbled down around 7:30.

Molly Fenske was in her office. Each room was next to where the falling tree struck.

“We kind of felt the whole house shake,” he said.

The couple said they have called the city twice about the tree – including as recently as Wednesday – asking it to be trimmed. Small branches have been coming down lately, Kyle Fenske said.

He said they never got a response.

A high wind advisory rose was elevated to a high wind warning for Niagara and Erie counties on Thursday morning. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Cheektowaga put it in place until 11 p.m.

The rest of Western New York, minus Allegany County, remained under the high wind advisory for all of Thursday.

A lakeshore flood advisory was in place for several hours for Erie and Chautauqua counties and areas along the Niagara River.

Lake Erie water levels were expected to rise 4 to 5 feet because of the winds, according to the weather service, as strong southwestern winds behind a cold front causing problems across the region.

Residents along the water were put on alert for possible flooding and shoreline erosion.

The scientific term for what was happening is a seiche [pronounced saysh], which is a standing wave oscillating in a body of water. Basically, Lake Erie’s water was being pushed from Ohio toward Buffalo.

The damage extended across the region.

Back in Buffalo, the Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes building in the Fruit Belt was damaged by fallen tree limbs, and they’re now having trouble getting anyone to come out to assess the damage.

“Hopefully it’s not too bad. There’s a huge tree that fell,” said executive director Ayondela Noble. “We had a tree service company come out about an hour and a half ago to assess it. Luckily there’s not huge amounts of damage, but a portion of our roof in back of the building was damaged and some windows are broken. Everyone we’ve reached out to so far is booked.”

At the Commercial Slip, cousins Andrew Kozlowski and Matthew Hencinski from Cheektowaga stood in disbelief at the damage to their business, ruined right before what was to be their big weekend.

“I don’t believe it yet,” Hencinski said.

In addition to the paintball with zombie targets, Black Morgue Manors also offered photo sessions with frightful Halloween characters.

“Most businesses have a bump in the road, but this is like a 33-car pileup,” Kozlowski said.

The pair from Cheektowaga are hopeful their “Bad Santa”-themed photo booth coming up during the holidays at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls turns out better. At least that one will be indoors.

News Staff Reporter Colin Dabkowski contributed to this report.