After weather-related gridlock downtown, Buffalo is ready for next dose of snow

Dec 15, 2016

As Buffalo braces for its next dose of snow following the city’s first major lake effect storm, officials say plows are ready and traffic conditions should be better, compared to Wednesday afternoon’s gridlock.


Motorists deal with gridlock in downtown Buffalo during Wednesday's snowstorm.
Credit Mike Mckay / WNED|WBFO

Throughout Wednesday afternoon, thousands of municipal employees from offices across downtown made their way home early. Their departures at staggered intervals were the result of coordination between slews of government offices. Along with heavy snow and high winds, what seemed to be the result was hours of downtown gridlock as the brunt of the city’s first major lake effect snow storm kicked in. But City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the motorists weren’t the cause of delays.

“What caused the gridlock was the closure of the Skyway for safety concerns, the tractor-trailer that tipped over on the [I-190], and the backup of a tractor trailer on South Park [Avenue].”

While southbound routes to and through the city were backed up, northbound routes remained clear. City police were dispatched to key outbound locations at Tupper Street and Elmwood Avenue, Michigan Avenue, and Niagara Street. Brown said without the coordination between downtown offices and government agencies, things could have been a lot worse.

Other than traffic troubles, no major incidents or injuries were reported across the city. On the minor side, Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield pointed to a few overnight blazes caused by residents trying to fix heating problems in unsafe ways.

“In one particular case where we had approximately $30,000 damage to a property on yesterday, a fire was caused by using a torpedo heater in a crawl space to defrost or make sure that their pipes did not freeze. That’s inappropriate use of that appliance,” said Whitfield.

The Fire Commissioner urged residents to refer problems with pipes and heating appliances to professionals, and ensure their homes are equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

City snow plows at the Public Works garage on Broadway.
Credit File photo / WBFO News

Since the start of the storm on Wednesday, over 35 vehicles have been working to clear city streets. When visibility cleared up between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. Thursday, plow crews were able to make significant progress clearing main thoroughfares and secondary streets – with all getting at least one pass of the plow blade.

“The strategy that Buffalo uses, and most major city’s use, is to plow the main streets during a snow event,” said Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Henry Jackson. “You just can’t see the effects or the results of it until after the snow stops, because you plow a street and it’s snowing right behind you.”

Because their methods have been successful over the past few years, Jackson’s crews will continue with the same approach into and beyond Thursday night’s forecasted snowfall. Because that accumulation is expected towards the end of evening rush hour, Brown gridlock is not expected.

“Hopefully there will be no accidents, no tractor-trailers that tip over or are stuck,” said Brown. “I think it should be a decent go tonight.”

About 60 percent of city streets will undergo the weekly alternate-side parking changeover at 6 p.m. Thursday. Residents are reminded to move their cars accordingly so plows can continue their work.