By CAROLYN THOMPSON
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A dangerous lake-effect snowstorm paralyzed parts of western and northern Recent York on Friday, dumping over 4 feet in some spots with more expected to fall through the night into Saturday. The storm was blamed for the deaths of two people stricken while clearing snow.
The storm’s severity varied widely because of the peculiarities of lake-effect storms, that are brought on by frigid winds picking up moisture from warmer lakes and dumping snow in narrow bands.
Residents in some parts of Buffalo spent Friday buffeted by blowing, heavy snow, punctuated by occasional claps of thunder, while just a number of miles north, only a number of inches fell and there have been patches of blue sky.
The heaviest snowfall was south of town. The National Weather Service reported single-day totals of three feet (1 meter) in lots of places along the eastern end of Lake Erie, with bands of heavier precipitation bringing 66 inches (168 centimeters) within the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, 48 inches (122 centimeters) in Elma and greater than 3 feet in Hamburg, where rescue crews were called to assist a resident whose home buckled under the load.
Schools were shuttered. Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Depew closed Thursday and Friday. Quite a few flights out and in of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled.
The storm was blamed for 2 deaths, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, tweeting that they were “related to cardiac events related to exertion during shoveling/snow blowing.”
“We send our deepest sympathies and remind all that this snow may be very heavy and dangerous,” he said.
By Friday afternoon, AAA tow truck drivers were having trouble reaching dozens of stranded drivers who defied travel bans and advisories, association spokeswoman Elizebeth Carey said.
“The AAA crews were attempting to get to folks that had called in saying they were broken down or stranded or had gone off the road of their vehicle. … Lots of our tow truck drivers kept calling in saying that `police turned me away,’” she said. In some cases, tow trucks followed behind payloaders enlisted to clear the way in which. The AAA passed along other drivers’ locations to police.
Even before the snow began falling, the NFL announced it might relocate the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday home game against the Cleveland Browns from the team’s stadium in Orchard Park to Detroit.
A day later the Bills tweeted photos of Highmark Stadium showing the playing field and its greater than 60,000 seats virtually buried in snow, and forecasters warned of an extra foot or more by Sunday.
Scott Fleetwood of West Seneca captured video of lightning crashing outside his home throughout the night, in addition to snow swiftly burying the pumpkins on his porch.
“The sky is white. … All the things’s white. The one thing you may see really is the home across the road,” he said.
“My tiki bar is now an igloo,” he added.
Zaria Black of Buffalo cleared several inches off her automotive Friday morning as she prepared to go to work. The Amazon worker expected she’d be outside much of the day and was nervous about road conditions.
“Without delay, it’s looking pretty bad,” she said.
With quite a few cars stuck and abandoned, Mayor Byron Brown urged people to remain off the roads in hard-hit south Buffalo, where extra city and personal plows were deployed.
“When the snow is falling between 3 to 4, 5 inches an hour, you may’t beat it,” he cautioned drivers at a news conference. “You will get stuck.”
Meanwhile, streets in downtown and north Buffalo had been cleared but were virtually empty of traffic Friday afternoon. Buffalo resident David Munschauer was well aware of the wildly contrasting scenes as he walked around.
“I’m 68, and I’ve lived on this town probably 60 of the 68, and it all the time amazes me,” he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Thursday for parts of western Recent York, including communities along the eastern ends of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The declaration covers 11 counties, with all vehicles banned from a stretch of Interstate 90.
“I’m so happy with Western Recent Yorkers for heeding our call to remain off the roads last night; it was treacherous,” Hochul told radio station WBEN. “And consequently, we were in a position to salt, we were in a position to clear the roads higher than we’d’ve in the event that they had been full of traffic, and we actually avoided numerous accidents.”
Catholic Health, which operates several health care facilities within the storm zone, has been preparing for days.
“Our staff has really stepped up, and folks have been making every effort to get in where they’ll. Some associates are spending the night,” spokeswoman JoAnn Cavanaugh said. “We’ve made sure our supplies are stocked — food and things for our patients in addition to associates.”
Heavy snow accumulations were also reported in northern Recent York on the eastern fringe of Lake Ontario, and in parts of northern Michigan. Parts of Pennsylvania also were seeing accumulations of lake-effect snow.
Fort Drum, Recent York, near Lake Ontario, saw 42 inches, the National Weather Service reported Friday.
In southwestern Michigan, state police reported a 20- to 25-vehicle pileup on U.S. 131 in Kalamazoo County. No serious injuries were reported.
“Roads still icy, slushy, we must decelerate,” police said on Twitter.
Buffalo has experience with dramatic lake-effect snowstorms, few worse than the one which struck in November of 2014. That epic storm dumped 7 feet (2 meters) of snow on some communities over three days, collapsing roofs and trapping motorists in greater than 100 vehicles on a lakeside stretch of the Recent York State Thruway.
Registered nurse Mary Ann Murphy recalled trudging on foot to Mercy Hospital, husband Steve at her side, within the 2014 storm. The memory made each especially glad she was in a position to drive to work Friday, despite roughly 2 feet of snow.
“I just type of gunned it down the road in my little SUV,” said Murphy, who lives a couple of mile from the Buffalo hospital. “I used to be just thrilled I didn’t need to walk.”
Friday’s snow also reminded Bruce Leader of the 2014 storm, dubbed “Snow-vember,” which, like this week’s storm, also left some parts of the region buried while others saw just a number of inches.
“I used to be driving backwards and forwards to work to Niagara County scratching my head, like, `What’s all the large hubbub about?′” he said of the 2014 event. “And down there, my friends are like, `Here’s the hubbub,′ sending me photos. And so they were doing the identical thing this morning.”
Associated Press reporters Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, John Wawrow in Buffalo and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.