Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Perfect Storm

This should've been posted right away, but there was no internet to be had for about a week around these parts. For those of you who don't live in Buffalo, or don't understand it's crazy weather - the following is what happens when Lake-generated snow squalls form when cold air, passing for long distances over the relatively warm waters of a large lake, picks up moisture and heat and is then forced to drop the moisture in the form of snow upon reaching the downwind shore. We like to call this delightful manna from heaven: "Lake Effect" snow.
Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 6am

This is the view that greeted me when I stepped out of Erica's front door in the morning before work. I shoveled about 6ft of snow the approximate weight and consistency of mashed potatoes, and then realized I wasn't going anywhere. Even if I could've shoveled my car out, there was no way to get it down the street.

(Note the bike rack - insert laugh track here)

Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 8am

As you can see here, the snow plows still never came, and the driveway and street are still buried. In this picture you can see an entire tree uprooted and lying across the driveway that leads to the parking lot of a large apartment building across the street. You'll notice in this picture as well as all the rest: the leaves are all still green! We didn't even have autumn yet. That is what made this storm so brutal - it hit so early in the autumn that all the added surface area from the leaves on each branch allowed the the heavy heavy snow to just clump on the leaves of the trees. Eventually the limbs or entire trees would just buckle & snap under the weight. Had the storm hit November 13th, there would likely have been no damage at all. In the evening on Thursday, when the storm had dumped a foot of snow, and was still falling: all you could hear was the loud crack of limbs breaking, followed by the whoosh of the snow laden branches crashing to the ground. About every 20 seconds you'd hear it, and with nobody out driving, and the snow absorbing much of the ambient noise of the city, it was pretty eerie. As it turned out, all those falling trees and limbs blocked roads and snapped power lines, causing nearly everyone to lose power. Something like 300,000 homes were without power.The snowfall in Buffalo was about 2 feet. Amherst had about 2.5 feet, and North Tonawanda had about a foot and a half.

Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 4:30pm

So by 3:00 or so on Friday, less than 24 hours after the storm started: the snow had melted enough so that you could drive car down many of the streets. Unless they were blocked (see above).

North Tonawanda - Saturday, October 14th: noon

By Saturday in North Tonawanda, you could barely see any snow left on the ground. All the downed tree limbs heaped on the sides of the roads made NT look like the hedgerow country of WWII Normandy, bristling with Nazi machine gun nests! Man, I miss being a kid.

I think the area worst hit was Amherst. Most residents of NT had power restored by Sunday, 3 days after the storm. Much of Buffalo had power back by Monday or Tuesday, but most of Amherst didn’t get their electricity until the following weekend. I think by now ( 10-24) there are only a few hundred customers still without power.

Our family did pretty well during the storm. We have a fireplace which kept us warm, and a propane camping stove for cooking. Erica & Rusty came to stay with us for a few days, which was great. My parents realized that they sleep better when the house is slightly cooler. Our house is well insulated, so setting the thermostat to 68° means it’ll coast at 70°-72°. With a little inspiration from the storm, I convinced them to turn the thermostat to 65° to save some money and make things more comfortable.

As it turned out our family really enjoyed the time together around the fireplace. Who knows, maybe we’ll turn the heat down and do that every Sunday.

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