BUFFALO, N.Y. – President Joe Biden is sending federal aid to western New York to help state and local authorities clean up from the massive storm that dumped more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow in western and northern New York and is blamed for three deaths, the White House announced Monday.
The emergency declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief in 11 counties hit by the the lake-effect snowstorm Friday and Saturday.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul thanked Biden for granting her request for emergency aid, and added in a news release, “My team and I will continue working around the clock to keep everyone safe, help communities dig out, and secure every last dollar to help rebuild and recover from this unprecedented, record-shattering historic winter storm.”
National Weather Service observers reported 80 inches (203 centimeters) in the Buffalo suburbs of Hamburg and Orchard Park, home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and 74 inches (188 centimeters) in Natural Bridge, a hamlet near Watertown off the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The storm forced the Bills to move Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns to Detroit. The Bills won 31-23.
On Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz raised the death toll from the storm from two to three. All of the victims were men who had heart attacks while clearing snow, he said.
The first significant snow of the season tested Buffalo streets crews and their new commissioner, Nathan Marton, who faced “trial by fire,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, responding to complaints that some streets were impassable two days after the worst of the snow.
“I would have liked the first snow event of the year not to have been a massive, historic lake-effect storm,” Brown said at an afternoon news briefing.
“If you have a historic Mother Nature event with over 4 feet of snow in a densely populated area, I don’t know where people expect all that snow to go,” he said. “It has to be hauled out.”
Marton said 114 pieces of heavy equipment were at work in the hardest hit areas of south Buffalo on Monday, including bucket loaders that were scooping snow into dump trucks and driving it out of neighborhoods.
More snow fell overnight Sunday in some areas, but it stopped by daybreak Monday. “We are finally dry,” weather service meteorologist Liz Jurkowski said.
A driving ban had been lifted for most areas affected by the storm by Monday morning, but schools in Buffalo and nearby towns announced they would be closed through at least Tuesday.
The snowstorm was at least the worst in New York state since November 2014, when some communities south of Buffalo were hit with 7 feet (2.13 meters) of snow over the course of three days.
Jurkowski said official snowfall totals for this storm were still being tabulated Monday.