Cleanup efforts from wind storm continue slowly

Mar 10, 2017

National Grid and NYSEG continue to work on restoration efforts after the wind storm on Wednesday that brought down power lines, utility poles and trees and caused damage throughout Western New York.

Early Friday morning, National Grid reported nearly 30,000 outages across New York State, including 7,764 in Orleans County, 3,878 in Niagara County, 6,194 in Genesee County, 2,217 in Wyoming County and 623 in Erie County.

NYSEG reported more than 14,000 outages, including 10,830 in Erie County, 2,722 in Wyoming County and 531 in Niagara County.

Storm damage in Hamburg
Credit Mason Blair

National Grid spokesman Steve Brady said they called in crews from Eastern New York, Massachusetts and Canada to assist with restoration efforts. Late Thursday afternoon, he gave a broad timeline for when power may be restored.

"As crews restored power throughout the day, the company also completed a comprehensive damage assessment and analysis and is estimating that 90 percent of impacted upstate New York customers will have power
restored by late Friday evening," Brady said.

Many customers have been without power for nearly two days. For vulnerable populations - for example, residents on oxygen - Brady said National Grid has a special program in place.

"We do have a life-support customer program," Brady said. "It doesn't necessarily guarantee their power will be back on any sooner, but that triggers - how should I describe it? - sort of a social agency outreach. There will be direct outreach to those customers to make sure they're okay and, if they need resources, we can direct them to resources or provide them ourself."

For example, Erie County Sheriff deputies have been making welfare checks on local residents who depend on electrically powered medical devices. The department Friday morning tweeted, "Happy to report all r fine."

The American Red Cross has opened shelters across the Western and Central New York Region, providing residents in need with a safe, warm place to stay, as well as food and water. Health Services and Disaster Mental Health volunteers are available and caseworkers will meet individually with families to assess their needs.

In Western New York, shelters are open in Niagara Falls, Batavia and Medina:

  • Batavia Veterans Administration Hospital, Building 4, 222 Richmond Avenue, Batavia
  • Frontier Fire Hall, 2176 Liberty Drive, Niagara Falls
  • Medina High School, 2 Mustang Drive, Medina, NY

The Red Cross says it remains in constant contact with emergency officials and is prepared to open additional shelters and provide additional relief services as needed.

Downed tree in Kenmore
Credit WBFO's Eileen Buckley

Wyoming County Emergency Services Director Anthony Santoro and Varysburg Fire Chief James Kelly, with the assistance of the Wyoming County Health Department, opened an emergency shelter at the Varysburg Fire Hall, 2446 Route 20A, Varysburg. At the time, there are still approximately 6,000 Wyoming County residents without power. The shelter is in the heart of those areas.

For a time during the wind storm, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster ordered no unnecessary travel in the Cataract City as the result of wind-related damage. City officials reported numerous power lines down, as well as whole trees. Some blocked roads, while others threatened houses. Batavia issued a similar order.

Niagara Falls Director of Public Works John Caso said crews were able to take care of nearly 100 incidents Thursday night. It will be "a continued effort" and crews have been working "upwards of 16 hours."

Many school districts in suburban Buffalo and outlying areas closed Thursday due to power outages and storm damage. Some remained closed Friday:

  • Albion Central
  • Attica Central
  • Barker Central
  • Batavia Central
  • Christian Academy of Western New York
  • East Aurora
  • Erie 2 BOCES, Ormsby Educational Center
  • Holley Central
  • Immaculate Conception, East Aurora
  • Iroquois Central
  • Kendall Central
  • LeRoy Central
  • Lockport City
  • Medina Central
  • Rainbow Pre-School, Albion and Batavia locations
  • Royalton-Hartland Central
  • Starpoint Central

The National Weather Service said winds hit 66 miles per hour Wednesday at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, but higher gusts were reported elsewhere. Winds are expected to gust up to 40 miles per hour Friday with temperatures possibly dipping into the single digits, making wind chill a significant factor.

When temperatures or wind chills drop below 16 degrees, Buffalo activates Code Blue 32. It is an expansion of the city's Code Blue program, which opens shelters for any homeless person who needs a warm place to stay. Vans also search city streets to find homeless people in need.