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Storm over, planning shifts to possible flooding

The sun and warming temperatures today are welcome change from the snow and bitter wind chills, but they may be just a temporary respite before the next challenge: flooding.

“A major warmup this weekend into early next week will significantly raise the risk for ice jam flooding due to melting snow,” the National Weather Service said.

Buffalo area creeks as well as Cattaraugus Creek at Sunset Bay are vulnerable to the threat, forecasters said.

And while flooding is on the minds of some, we're still feeling the effects of the storm. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Meals on Wheels senior meals are being delivered today, but the Department of Senior Services congregate care dining sites in Springville, Lancaster, East Aurora, Violet Housing and Cheektowaga are are closed today.

He also noted that driving is still tricky in spots as crews try to clean up the snow pack.

While the demobilization from storm cleanup has yet to begin, emergency responders have been preparing for the possibility of flooding.

New York State provided pumps to Buffalo and is continuing to work with other municipalities to see if they need pumps, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

"We're prepared, we're ready for this," Hochul said. "We know the hot spots, we know how to get there immediately when the flooding starts."

What to expect the next 36 hours: Another cold day Friday; weekend warmup

Sandbags are being provided for residents living in the flood-prone Lexington Green neighborhood near Buffalo Creek in West Seneca, Supervisor Sheila Meegan said.

“We had sanitation employees filling up to 1,000 sandbags,” she said, adding the staff came in earlier in the week but garbage pickup had been suspended because of the storm.

The bags are being dropped off in the neighborhood so residents can take them back to their homes, she said.

“We’ll be sending a Code Red out to the Lexington Green neighborhood that has been, unfortunately, prone to flooding, asking them to prepare themselves,” she said.

It was back to normal for many today, although traffic is lighter than usual with every school district in Erie County and a handful in Niagara County, including Niagara Falls, closed for the third consecutive day.

Route 5 and the Skyway and Routes 400 and 219 reopened after being closed for the storm. The ban on tractor-trailers on the Thruway and other major roads also has expired.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said all travel advisories were lifted in Erie County as of 7 a.m.

Hochul said the reaction from Western New Yorkers heeding travel advisories and bans helped in handling the storm.

"They really took it seriously this time, and I think that made a big difference," she said during a morning briefing at the Thruway Authority.

She praised the collaboration among the state, county and localities, and said the cooperation from authorities and residents helped plow drivers.

"These people are working 12- to 16-hour shifts, out there by themselves in extreme situations," she said.

Snowstorm claims three lives as officials look toward warmup, possible flooding

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