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Thousands without power after windstorm blows through Western New York

Western New Yorkers cleaned up Sunday after high winds overnight brought down tree limbs and disrupted power to thousands of households throughout the area. An outage delayed morning flights at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

After peak winds struck, NYSEG reported that more than 12,000 customers were without power at 6:30 a.m. in the company’s Lancaster division, which includes Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties. The company said it mobilized additional line and tree crews. By mid-evening, the company's website reported that about 1,600 customers were still without electricity.

National Grid also reported "multiple" power outages throughout Erie County and the Southern Tier, indicating that it had dispatched emergency crews while preparing for more service interruptions. The utility's field force was dealing with downed trees, tree limbs, wires, broken poles and other hazards throughout upstate New York, with hardest hit areas reported in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe and Onondaga counties. Repair crews were scheduled "to work around the clock across upstate New York to restore power as quickly and safely as possible in challenging conditions," the company said.

“This storm continues to impact our electricity system,” said Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid’s New York vice president. “As anticipated, we’re seeing cases of downed wires in addition to broken poles and uprooted trees on our power lines. Our crews will continue to be out there in full force bringing service back to customers as quickly and safely as possible.”

[RELATED: From 41 mph to 69 mph, locales across WNY report high wind speeds]

Meanwhile, police departments throughout the area reported scores of calls concerning downed trees and power lines.

In the City of Buffalo, mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said National Grid had about 2,600 customers without power Sunday morning. That number had been reduced to fewer than 500 by midafternoon and to just two by mid-evening.

About 20 trees were damaged, DeGeorge said, and about a dozen traffic signals were reported out of power or flashing. Crews were responding, he added.

Huge waves crashing into Erie Basin Marina and Centennial Park, formerly LaSalle Park, prompted Buffalo police to close the areas to motorists and pedestrians. They were reopened by 3 p.m.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport also experienced power issues beginning just after 5 a.m. Sunday, according to spokeswoman Helen Tederous, causing backup power to take over. But electricity was fully restored around 10 a.m. and the airport resumed normal operations, she said.

Some of the most significant damage occurred in Attica, where the rear wall of the Williams Opera House at 16 Exchange St. collapsed around 6:30 a.m. Village police reported that winds blew in a large section of the masonry and brick rear wall, causing the second floor of the three-story building constructed in 1879 to also collapse. In addition, a vehicle parked nearby was damaged.

Police said the historic building's structural integrity is compromised and that is temporarily condemned for human occupancy, but the building's owner and code enforcement officials are addressing the situation.

The heavy rain that started falling Saturday afternoon tapered off quickly early Sunday. Although 1 1/2 to 2 inches had been forecast for Buffalo up across Niagara County, the National Weather Service reported totals of half an inch to an inch. At the airport weather station in Cheektowaga, only .36 of an inch was measured.

Saturday's record-breaking weather

Buffalo broke the record high for Jan. 11 when the temperature reached 63 degrees Saturday morning and hit 67 degrees in the afternoon. The old record of 61 degrees was set two years ago.

The temperature tied for the seventh warmest day in January, and was the warmest it has been in January since Jan. 13, 2005, when it was 68 degrees, according to the weather service. The all-time warmest January temperature in Buffalo is 72 degrees on Jan. 25, 1950.

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