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Powerful storm results in state of emergency for 11 counties

As Tyler McClure walked home to his apartment on the West Side of Buffalo Friday morning, he saw street after street where trees or branches had been knocked down by a vicious windstorm.

“It’s surprising to see all the trees down,” he said. “It's definitely some excitement – at least it’s not snow.”

Hundreds of trees were knocked down throughout the region and thousands lost power as a powerful storm knocked Western New York into a state of emergency Friday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in 11 counties, including Erie and Chautauqua, as a result of flooding.

The powerful overnight storm brought winds as high as 60 to 70 mph to some areas of New York, leaving about 230,000 people without power in areas that stretched between Erie and Dutchess counties, Cuomo said Friday morning. He urged drivers to take caution when approaching flooded roads.

As the high wind warning expired at 1 p.m. for most of Western New York, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said most major roads had reopened. This morning he reported 1,701 National Grid customers without power and 1,701 customers still without power.

The hardest hit areas were Buffalo and the Northtowns, but power outages were scattered throughout the county, he said. Some schools closed, but most remained open.

A news release issued Friday night by NYSEG said about 2,700 of its customers in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties were still without power. The company expects to restore power to 95% of the customers in those areas by 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

In Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown said at a Friday morning news conference that more than 14,000 Buffalo residents lost power overnight. The city had responded to more than 200 calls about trees that had fallen. At least 11 trees came down on houses, city officials said. Brown reported no injuries due to the storm.

As McClure arrived home to his Prospect Avenue apartment between Jersey and Pennsylvania streets, he found a huge tree had fallen in front of the building on the east side of the street. The tree had been uprooted from its spot between the sidewalk and the street and it fell toward the house, with several branches reaching onto the front porch, nearly knocking on the door. A few houses south on Prospect, the street was blocked by another fallen tree.

A few blocks away, felled trees blocked two separate spots on York Street, and both had fallen on residents' cars. At a residence near Richmond Avenue, a tree fell across York and smashed a black Honda sedan.

Steve Pollack, who lives next door, was using his chain saw to help clear some branches so his neighbors could get out of the driveway with their second car.

Pollack said the tree came down after midnight. He said his neighbors were in their 90s, with their daughter, who owns the smashed car, staying in the upstairs apartment.

"You know that old song by Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian folk singer, about the freighter than went down?" Pollack said, referring to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and its final line: "When the gales of November come early."

"Well," Pollack said with a laugh, "the gales of November came early."

Mayor Brown said that at one point Friday morning, eight traffic signals were out in the city, with police officers directing traffic at those intersections. Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn said crews were out all night and into Friday morning and afternoon trying to clear roads.

The storm also caused between $10 million and $15 million in damage to the breakwall designed to protect LaSalle Park and downtown Buffalo from flooding.

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In Hamburg, Leanne Powers described the property damage she and her neighbors in Hoover Beach endured as a result of the storm as excessive – including homes filled with water and debris from the lake.

"We have breakwalls and we have to pay for them ourselves. It's something we finance, like a car or a home addition," Powers said.

"So several residents have had their breakwalls completely erode because of the high lake level. The average cost of a breakwall is $100,000," she added.

As a result of the compromised breakwalls, Powers said, water from the lake rolled up and struck many homes, even those not directly located off the lake. She described hurricane-force shutters that failed and debris from downed trees, along with boulders that crashed through residents' windows.

"The house a few doors down from me will likely be demolished ... There's also a restaurant next to me that is completely under water," Powers added.

Several power lines were reported down in Cheektowaga. In Lackawanna, at least five poles were down, City Hall was closed and its Senior Center on Martin Road became a warming shelter for those with no power.

On Grand Island, flooding was reported near the Niagara River. The Grand Island fire department warned residents on North and South Colony Road, Bronson Road and low-lying areas of East River Road about flooding encroaching on residential homes. Town officials opened the Grand Island Golden Age Center, 3278 Whitehaven Road, as a temporary shelter as residents were asked to use caution and notified that they could voluntarily evacuate their homes, if need be, until the flooding subsided.

Schools were closed in Lockport and Lewiston-Porter, Truman School in Lackawanna was closed, while Buffalo schools 4 and 65 were closed due to a lack of power. Niagara County Community College was also closed.

An early voting poll site in Holland was moved by the Erie County Board of Elections due to issues related to the windstorm. The site has been moved from the Holland Community Center to Holland Town Hall, 47 Pearl St.

November gales fade as wintry hints (including the s-word) arrive

 

 

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