GUEST COLUMN - Community cooperation, communication essential in winter storm

Modified: February 11, 2019 10:39am

Latest News

Redirecting to our new, updated website ...

Erie County was struck by a ferocious winter storm in late January that brought combinations of lake effect snows, subzero temperatures, and high winds over the course of three days, closing county offices on Wednesday and Thursday. Officially a blizzard, the storm was a dangerous event that demonstrated the power of nature but also highlighted the coordinated public safety response provided by local government throughout the event. Planning, communication, and organization took place on many levels before, during, and after the Blizzard of 2019 and I would like to thank all who played a role in keeping our community safe.

I returned to Erie County early Tuesday afternoon from a conference in Albany, cutting my time there short in order to be here as the storm approached. Updates from the National Weather Service showed that this storm would bring significant lake-effect snow to Buffalo and the Northtowns before shifting south, an unusual path for a winter storm to take but one that we were prepared to deal with. County departments of Public Works, Homeland Security & Emergency Services, and Health were all in close communication with multiple partners across municipalities to ensure personnel were in place to keep the roads as clear as possible and extreme cold-weather precautions were followed.

I ordered activation of the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Cheektowaga on Tuesday as the storm intensified. Businesses let staff go home early and schools closed in anticipation of what was still on the way. Municipal offices were closed in order to help keep people off the streets and NYS banned trucks and buses from major routes during the storm. While some truckers did violate that ban and will face the legal consequences for their actions, the truck ban was a success for the most part.

On Wednesday I declared a state of emergency when conditions worsened and the region dealt with the full impact of the blizzard. We were joined at the EOC by many partners committed to keeping residents safe while handling the storm and its aftermath, and there are many people to thank for the work they did. In addition to the Emergency Services personnel and the Public Works plow drivers who kept at it while the storm howled, my thanks go to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol for the job they did in keeping motorists safe and assisting with medical needs, such as providing transportation to dialysis appointments. Thanks also to our partners at the NYS Police, the Thruway Authority and NYSDOT for their help. I would like to thank Legislator John Bruso, who joined us at the EOC to offer support and pizza to the personnel stationed there. I would also like to thank the many town Supervisors, Mayors, and Highway Superintendents who joined our regular conference calls during the storm to update conditions, identify areas of need, and offer assistance wherever possible. Working together as a community, we weathered the storm.