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Ready, set: snow tires and snowblowers

Chuck Lamarca expects the telephone to be busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Schaub Equipment, which sells and repairs snowblowers in the winter and lawnmowers in the summer.

"We'll get 15 to 20 calls. 'My machine doesn't start. Can you come and get it?' We can, but not today," Lamarca said.

It's the same at tire stores. Some people have been vigilant about making sure their tires have enough tread for the winter, or changing summer tires for snow tires.

"Smart people came early," said Ben Caudle, who owns Ben's Downtown Tire with his father, also named Ben. "Other people wait until they see it."

There's been enough hype about this first measurable snowfall of the season that Western New Yorkers are ready, whether for 3 inches or 12 inches.

The forecast calls for a greater than 80 percent chance for snow in the metro Buffalo area through about 10 a.m. today. The initial round of lake-effect snow is likely to dissipate by the late morning hours, but a few snow showers could linger.

“It’s definitely going to snow,” said Jim Mitchell, a meteorologist with the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service, on Tuesday evening. “The big thing is it’s not going to be anything crippling.”

A winter weather advisory goes into effect for northern Erie and Genesee counties until 1 a.m. Thursday.

Mitchell said the evening commute will be affected, but only between 2 to 4 inches of snow are expected. The snow band will strengthen a bit as it shifts farther south to southern Erie and Wyoming counties, Mitchell said.

Germaine Miller waited for new tires to be put on his Toyota Prius at Ben's Downtown Tire. He's an Uber driver, and said he wants to be ready for whatever comes. The weather forecast had something to do with him getting tires Tuesday.

"I know they're not ready for the snow," he said. "Had there been dry pavement, I would have waited until I really, really needed it."

He's also got his ice scraper and snow brush ready.

Ben Caudle's father opened his first shop in 1968 on East Delevan Avenue, and about nine years ago they opened a second location at Sycamore and Elm streets. He said it's been nonstop tire service this week.

"We'll probably be here until 8 doing tires," he said.

Tires have become a little more pricey over the years, but the technology that goes into them is much more advanced, he said.

Many customers are buying new tires, and some are coming in to have snow tires put on. Snow tires are made of a different compound than regular or all-season tires, he said.

"They're far superior than an all-season," he said. But an all-wheel drive vehicle with good all-season tires will do the trick in a Buffalo winter, too, he said. "Snow tires are just a step better."

The disadvantage of snow tires is connected to why they work so well, particularly in high snow.

"They're softer. They're not made to run on hot roads," he said, likening snow tires on summer roads to an eraser crumbling as it erases a pencil line.

Because of that, they should not be running on a car year-round because the tread will wear away.

Some customers also buy studded tires. Snow tires with metal studs can be used on cars in New York State from Oct. 16 through April 30.

While customers are getting their cars ready for winter, Caudle suggests making sure the spare tire is inflated, checking the wipers, putting a bag of salt in the trunk for traction if the car gets stuck, and bringing a blanket along — just in case.

They started getting ready for the winter at Schaub Equipment on Seneca Street just after Labor Day, said Lamarca, one of the owners of the shop.

Snowblowers were lined up outside, waiting to be serviced, while he was getting ready to change the oil on one in the shop. Some get their machines serviced every year.

Chuck Lamarca checks the oil in a snowblower he is servicing. (Barbara O'Brien/Buffalo News)

"I've worked on the same machine for 30 years," he said.

One customer called him recently and said last year's winter was so mild, he didn't start his snowblower. He was surprised when he had trouble starting it this year, but Lamarca was not.

"When you don't use it for a year, it won't start," he said.

He said the winter weather has changed, with a number of snowfalls, some extreme, and then big melts. As a result, the shop orders half the snowblowers it used to keep on hand to sell, he said.

Still, he was ready for the onslaught of calls after the snow.

"If it hits, two days later it will be busy," he said.

News Staff Reporter Harold McNeil contributed to this report.

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