GUEST COLUMN: Collaboration the key in addressing recent snow storm and blizzard

Modified: January 24, 2023 3:29pm

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Date: 
1/24/23

By Mark Poloncarz

As we all know, our region recently dealt with two major winter weather events as Mother Nature hit Erie County hard in November with a major snow storm and then again last month with the terrible Christmas Blizzard of 2022. While much has been said about the impact of both, and the history books will certainly provide great detail about the devastating blizzard, I am proud of the collaboration that took place throughout the county. We coordinated a response that eventually grew to include thousands of workers and hundreds of pieces of equipment of all types that assisted hard-hit communities.

Both events prompted us to open our Emergency Operations Center in Cheektowaga. More commonly referred to by county officials and members of the media as “the EOC,” it once again served as our region-wide nerve center for response during the snowstorm in November and the blizzard in December. We summoned storm response personnel from every conceivable field to coordinate our strategic approach to protect and maintain public safety, clear roads as quickly as possible, and support residents seeking assistance with anything impacted by the severe winter weather.

Regular communication and continuous coordination was critical, especially during the early days of the blizzard. We held scheduled conference calls open to all municipalities located within Erie County in an effort to improve overall situational awareness in what was a constantly changing environment.

The result was a coordinated storm response developed with community leaders who understood the importance of joining forces to address the many issues our region faced during the actual blizzard itself and then in the aftermath as we assigned snowplows, payloaders, dump trucks, and other specialized equipment to neighborhoods hit hardest by the heavy accumulation of snow. I thank all of the local officials, municipal employees, emergency responders, and other essential personnel who embraced our approach to collaborative efforts during both winter weather events.

I also thank Governor Kathy Hochul for providing us assistance in the form of numerous state departments’ employees and National Guard personnel. The county’s storm response also included investing millions of dollars on the ground with contractors who helped us address the impact of what is likely the worst blizzard we’ve ever faced in Erie County, a truly horrible event that multiple federal officials and I are urging FEMA to declare as a “major disaster.”

I share my deepest condolences to anyone who lost a loved one as a result of either winter weather event. I also thank the family members and friends of our incredible essential personnel who understood the important tasks that public safety dispatchers, law enforcement officials, public works employees, and the myriad other first responders had to complete to serve and protect the public. While we are unable to count the total number of lives they saved, their service represents the very best of our community.