Buffalo’s storm-ravaged streets reopened Thursday as authorities continue to search for people who died or were trapped following last week’s single blizzard that hit the area with about 40 inches of snow.
Mayor Byron Brown announced at a press conference Wednesday night that the city’s driving ban would be lifted after midnight. Commuter roads, highways and Buffalo Niagara International Airport had already reopened.
Brown touted “significant progress” in snow removal, but still cautioned residents against venturing out in their vehicles unless necessary.
Also Wednesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz confirmed 37 deaths in his jurisdiction, including 29 in the Buffalo area alone. In comparison, 23 deaths in Western New York were attributed to the January 1977 blizzard, the previous storm against which all others were measured.
By midweek, several bodies remained unidentified.
As local officials wrestled with the possibility of finding more remains as the snow began to melt, the National Guard continued to knock on doors to check on residents who lost power. At times, law enforcement relied on the officers’ personal snowmobiles and trucks to navigate the frozen city.
As the cleanup begins, cracks have begun to appear in the united front of the local political establishment. Poloncarz called Brown’s response to the storm “embarrassing,” while Republican Erie County Sheriff John Garcia admitted the area’s preparedness “absolutely” could have been better.
Brown, however, was adamant and insisted the city “did everything they could” given the conditions.
Unfortunately, Buffalo’s hellish week may be far from over. With rain forecast at the end of the week and temperatures expected to soar up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the region is preparing for possible flooding as the snow melts.
Although the National Weather Service predicts only minor problems, Governor Kathy Hochul confirmed the state is ready with nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators.
“We will continue to work closely with local partners to help communities recover,” the governor said. written on wednesday on Twitter.
“We’re working around the clock to help Western New York recover from this historic winter storm,” she added, “and we won’t stop until the job is done.”
With post wires