Buffalo, western New York snow blast cause collapsing roofs

Roofs began to creak and collapse and homeowners toiled to clear waist-high drifts atop their houses Thursday as another storm brought the Buffalo area's three-day snowfall total to an epic two metres or more.

People being evacuated from several mobile home parks

Snowed in

8 years ago
Duration 2:56
More snow is expected to hit the Buffalo area of New York

Roofs began to creak and collapse and homeowners toiled to clear waist-high drifts atop their houses Thursday as another storm brought the Buffalo area's three-day snowfall total to an epic two metres or more.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo begged drivers "pretty, pretty please" to stay off slippery, car-clogged roads in western New York while crews struggled to dig out. Some areas got close to a metre of new snow by Thursday afternoon.

Things could quickly get worse: Rain and high temperatures were in the forecast for the weekend, raising the spectre of flooding and an even heavier load on roofs, where the snow could absorb the downpours like a blanket.

Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Timothy Roma said more than a dozen buildings and carports collapsed, as did a metal warehouse operated by a Christmas decorations company, where damage was estimated in the millions.

Homeowners and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger.

People were being evacuated from several mobile home parks in suburban Cheektowaga and West Seneca because roofs were buckling.  Local media reported that about 180 residents were evacuated from a Cheektowaga assisted living facility after staff members noticed the ceiling bulging under the weight of the snow.

Fire crews respond to reports that heavy snow was causing the roof to buckle at an assisted-care facility in Cheektowaga, N.Y. About 100 residents were being evacuated from the building. (Havard Gould/CBC)

National Guardsmen drove nurses to work their hospital shifts. State troopers helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. State officials assembled 463 plows, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks from across the state.

Some Buffalo-area schools were closed for the third day, burning through snow days with winter still a month away.

A stretch of the New York State Thruway through western New York remained closed with more than 300 truckers idled at truck stops and service areas, waiting for the highway to reopen.
Mike Jason cuts a path Thursday with his snowblower after another 38 centimetres fell overnight in East Aurora, N.Y. (Gary Wiepert/Associated Press)

Storms blamed for at least 10 deaths

The storms were blamed for at least 10 deaths in western New York, mostly from heart attacks and exposure.

Tom Wilson, of West Seneca, split a Salisbury steak frozen dinner with co-workers and tried his best to get some rest when he was stuck 36 hours at his warehouse job.

"I slept on a pallet. Then I slept on some office chairs, and then I went back to the pallet," he said. "Then I found some sponges to lay on. I found one pack of sponges unopened. That looks like a pillow to me."

"We tried to make popcorn with a two-by-four, two empty pop kegs, some charcoal and a dust pan," he added. "It didn't work."

CBC News reporter Lorenda Reddekopp said some convenience stores and restaurants in the affected area are worried about running out of supplies because the main highway is closed.

"Some of the vehicles that are stuck on the highway, those are the big delivery trucks," she said.

Woman gives birth in fire station

Bethany Hojnacki went into labour at the height of the storm and ended up giving birth in a Buffalo fire station after she and her husband couldn't get to the hospital. Mother and daughter were later taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Cuomo said Wednesday afternoon that all trapped travellers had been removed from their cars.

Asked by reporters how officials could allow people to be snowbound in cars for 24 hours, Cuomo cited a jackknifed trailer that prevented plows from removing fast-falling snow, and drivers' own wrongheaded choices.

"What happened was, even though the Thruway was officially closed, people went on. We didn't immediately block every entrance. It was a mistake," Cuomo said.

A bulldozer clears the way for an ambulance in a neighbourhood in West Seneca, N.Y., on Wednesday. The Buffalo area found itself buried under as much as 1.7 metres of snow Wednesday, with more lake-effect falling Thursday. (Derek Gee, The Buffalo News/Associated Press)

"Part of it is citizen responsibility," he added. "If the road is closed, it's closed."

.The NFL's Buffalo Bills offered $10 US an hour plus game tickets for people willing to help shovel out the stands in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, in the snow belt southeast of the city.

Team spokesman Scott Berchtold said the team has an estimated 199,580 tonnes of snow to remove from the stadium before Sunday's game against the New York Jets — more than ever before.

Local weather stories from CBC News:

With an additional 60 centimetres possible on Thursday, the one-week totals for the Buffalo area will approach the average snowfall for an entire year: close to 2.38 metres.

The governor said it would take four or five days to clean up.

Amtrak passenger train service between Albany and the Buffalo area was suspended. Some of it will resume on Thursday. Mail delivery was interrupted in certain communities with driving bans.

With files from CBC News


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