Rochester area sends help to Buffalo after storm – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Dawn and Lee Clark and their two snowmobiles faced a police checkpoint at a Depew intersection Thursday — “you can’t go further, it’s too bad,” police said, as a wall of swirling dark clouds built up in the distance behind them.
The Clarks, who live in the town of Alabama in Genesee County, explained that they had seen pleas for help from Buffalo residents on Facebook and were going to aid the rescue effort. Police let them through.
The Clarks would be awake for the next 18 hours, working through the night as part of an impromptu rescue team that transported firefighters, dug out suffocated furnace vents, and plowed the first paths through dark neighborhood streets still buried under 7 feet of snow.
Individuals and agencies from Monroe and surrounding counties trekked west over the past week, offering assistance to Buffalo’s southtowns as structural collapses and still impassable roads threatened to overwhelm emergency responders.
“It was unreal down there,” Dawn Clark said. “I don’t even know how to explain it — there was no life.”
While emergency operating center officials told private snowmobilers to go home because of liability issues with carrying out emergency missions, fire stations pleaded for their help, Dawn Clark said.
“(The fire stations) welcomed us with open arms,” Clark said, adding that she put out a request on Facebook for other snowmobiling friends to come out and assist the effort. While she stayed all night to help, Clark said it wasn’t enough.
“I wish we could have done more for them,” she said.
Groups and organizations of all sizes from Rochester and its neighbors were eager to lend a hand in Buffalo snow clean-up and rescue operations.
•Monroe County sent three Fire Bureau Structural Collapse Rescue Teams and three dump trucks to Buffalo Thursday, and those teams should be there until Sunday, said County Spokesman Justin Feasel.
“They’re slammed,” Feasel said. “The sheer volume of collapses means we don’t know how long they’re going to need our teams down there.”
•The Pike Company, a construction firm located in Rochester, sent 25 people and over 10 pieces of heavy equipment for plowing, said President Rufus Judson.
•DJM Equipment was getting calls every twenty minutes on Friday from customers asking about Bobcat equipment rentals — mostly miniature bulldozers called skid steer loaders — to take down to Buffalo, said Office Manager Mindy Martin.
•Rochester nursing home officials were involved in discussions about where to place Buffalo nursing home residents who had to be evacuated from their buildings because of structural instability, said Jim Devoe, President of Seniorsfirst Communities and Services.
Seniorsfirst is part of a mutual aid group that covers many Rochester and Buffalo nursing homes and formulates evacuation plans in disaster situations. The group sprang into action this week to find beds for evacuated residents, and while several Rochester beds were available if needed, all affected residents were placed in beds in other Buffalo homes, Devoe said.
•The American Red Cross sent 76 volunteers from Rochester and central New York, and received food donations from Wegmans and other companies to take to Buffalo, said Red Cross Spokesman Jay Bonafede.
The Red Cross also issued an appeal for blood donations in the Rochester area, saying the snowstorms caused the cancellation of more than 50 blood drives.
•Rural/Metro Medical Services ambulance crews from Rochester and Syracuse deployed to the Buffalo and Niagara Falls areas from Tuesday night onward, said EMT Nate Coons. A new relief crew deployed on Friday, said spokeswoman LaShay Harris.
•Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Friday that will temporarily suspend regulatory measures to ensure that all affected individuals will receive care and medications throughout the emergency.
Buffalo area medical facilities will have flexibility to provide adequate staffing until their usual staff can get to and from work, and people will be able to obtain early prescriptions from providers or refills of medications at any pharmacy with a shared database.
Officials are blaming at least 12 deaths on the storm, most of them from heart attacks suffered while clearing snow.
The sun came out Friday, but so did predictions of flooding caused by rain, temperatures up to 60 degrees and blocked catch basins.
“We are preparing now for more flooding than we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We still have that challenge to look forward to.” Cuomo said the state was sending in pumps, boats, helicopters and high-axle vehicles that can operate in 4 to 5 feet of water.
“If we’re lucky we won’t need any of it,” he said. “But prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday to Wednesday.
And the snow remained a huge challenge Friday. Officials were still urging people to put off nonessential travel so snow removal efforts could progress. Cuomo reopened a 132-mile stretch of the state Thruway that had been closed since Tuesday.
Several exits along that stretch were still closed to traffic and Cuomo said drivers headed west should “assume you can’t get off until Pennsylvania.” He said roads throughout the region remain “very dangerous.”
The highway was reopened in stages to allow the hundreds of tractor-trailers and other vehicles stranded since Tuesday to leave the region.
Officials said Interstate 190 and I-290 and Routes 219 and 400 also reopened for essential traffic only.
Local travel bans were beginning to be lifted Friday so delivery trucks can bring in food and other essentials to depleted supermarkets, the governor said.
Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and the uncollected autumn leaves underneath blocked catch basins.
“The biggest flood threat would be on Monday when temperatures are at their warmest,” he said. “There could be general urban flooding.”
“There’s roughly the equivalent of 6 inches of rain in the snowpack that will essentially be released over two days,” Tobe said. “If it was released as rain it would be a monumental storm.”
He said flooding would likely affect mostly basements and creeks.
“It’s not going to be this giant flooding like you see in hurricanes,” he said.
Includes reporting by The Associated Press.