Oswego County Works to Help Buffalo Residents Dig Out

OSWEGO, NY – Oswego County sent a contingent of equipment and manpower to the Buffalo region Friday (Nov. 21) to help the community unbury its streets and free its residents and travelers from their snow bound catacombs.

County Legislator Marie Schadt said on Friday that she contacted every emergency agency she could think of after the brunt of the storm Wednesday because she is worried about her 67-year-old friend in Orchard Park, one of the areas hardest hit by the pre-winter storm.

The National Weather Service station in Elma – about 2 miles west south west of Orchard Park, measured a total of 59 inches of accumulated snowfall from Sunday to Wednesday.

“My friend Julie is not a worrier,” Schadt – owner of K-9 Grooming and Pet Motel, said on Friday. “She’s worked in the worst areas of child protection in some of the toughest parts of Buffalo … but she’s starting to worry.”

Meanwhile, just 15 miles north, at the 7-Eleven on Harlem Road in Amherst Friday morning Debbie, an employee at the store, told Oswego County Today that area received barely six inches of snow. “Three miles directly south, toward Orchard Park, Hamburg, West Seneca and South Buffalo they had three feet,” she said. “I live in Tonawanda and we got four inches.”

The convenience store is located at Route 324 and Route 290, near Interstate 90 exit 50 where the thruway was shut down on Monday until Friday afternoon, although some of the off-ramps remained closed.

“The thruway was closed right where we are. At Harlem Road and Sheridan Drive is where travelers have to get off Route 290,” the 7-Eleven employee said. “The next exit down would be for I-90 and that’s closed, so everybody was getting off right here.”

She said many of the people who came into the store were trying to get home – to places like New York City, and Connecticut, but being rerouted off the Interstate was disorienting.

“They were lost,” she said, “so I sent them to Route 5 to keep following the main road all the way to the other side of Rochester, where they could get back on the thruway where it was open.”

Meanwhile, Schadt said of Orchard Park, “It snowed so deep on Julie’s roof that it covered the top of the chimney and turned her furnace off three days ago.”

“She can’t get the door open,” Schadt added. “After a number of hours she was able to clear a tiny path for her Corgis to get out and go to the bathroom.”

“Across the street from Julie is a lovely woman who is in her 70’s and has advance COPD. She has a golden retriever, but she suffered a leg injury a few years ago and she can’t even shovel.”

Schadt said she offered to try and contact the neighbors for help, but the woman said there were enough other people in really bad trouble that she didn’t want to cause a hassle. Despite having no heat in the house, “Let me just try to sit tight,” the woman told Schadt.

The legislator has been able to keep in close contact with her friend by text message. “We’re probably going to get her on Sunday if the roads are open,” she added.

In an attempt to help her friend and neighbors, Schadt said she talked with the local fire department and emergency management in the Orchard Park region to find out what kind help they needed. “He said they’re frantic and they need all the help they can get,” the legislator said.

After calling Oswego County Administrator Phil Church and Highway Superintendent Kurt Ospelt, Schadt said she got a call from Emergency Management Director Dale Currier.

“Then Phil called me yesterday to say the counties there sent out their S.O.S. and they’ve asked for 40 blowers, 40 loaders, 40 skid steers – everything that can bucket snow, and ten wheel dump trucks to move it,” she said.

Friday it was announced that County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner approved a request from the State Office of Emergency Management Thursday afternoon for additional snow removal assistance.

“We’re used to these types of events and are certainly happy to help them out,” Gardner said.

Ospelt said a loader, three 10-wheel trucks and a service truck went to Buffalo this morning (Nov. 21).

“We expect them to be in Buffalo for about three days,” he said.

“Now the imminent worry is that it is going to warm up, and their concern is the snow loads,” Schadt added.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer told The Washington Post in an interview Friday that “we’re waiting for the governor to request a disaster declaration. I’ve been in touch with the White House and am making sure that FEMA is on the ground because in Buffalo, they’ve had some issues in the past in making sure they get their disaster requests in fast enough.”

Schumer added that “the biggest danger is the roofs. And on Monday and Tuesday, the temperatures are going to climb into the 50s and it might rain, so there’s concern that all that snow is just going to act like a sponge and absorb more water and put more weight on the roofs.”

Thirty roofs have collapsed across the region so far, Schumer said. More than a dozen deaths have been attributed to the monster storm.

Debbie noted that the7-Eleven convenience store has done a brisk business all week. “We did get a milk delivery on Tuesday morning, so we had milk the whole time. People were coming from all over to get stuff they needed.”

She said the store has been very busy the last few days with the snow plow drivers and National Guardsmen in the area to help.

With Oswego County assets now deployed to join the effort, Schadt said, “I am so proud that we’re headed in there. It’s the best thing we can do to help our neighbors. If we can avoid one loss of life, we’ve succeeded.”

Note: Oswego County Today also had the opportunity to speak with Emergency Management Director Dale Currier. Check back tomorrow (Nov. 23) for that interview. – Ed.