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UB Students Advise City on Confronting Snow Storms

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A group of graduate students from UB's Department of Urban and Regional Planning delivered ten recommendations to city officials Wednesday on "Confronting Severe Winter Storms." Students created a snow preparedness and response plan for the city and Erie County.

Students recommend installing global positioning systems in snow removal vehicles, a program modeled after Wayne County, Michigan that cost more than $10 million. Streets Commissioner Paul Sullivan says the system would cut down on costs in the long run, but right now the city can't afford it.

"It is something we are very much interested in. But at the present time, it is very costly," Sullivan said. Maybe by working with UB, we can find ways to fund it."

Students also recommended improvements in meeting the emergency storm needs of the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged and establishing better in-depth road and traffic reports.

In the wake of past storms, student Tony Kurdziel says Buffalo also needs to fight for more grant dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to protect property in the future.

"This is where we feel Western New York is missing out on millions in mitigation funding," Kurdziel said. "They can't acquire these technologies that would help with the streamlining of a massive snow removal response, because it doesn't fall under FEMA's definition of mitigation."

Students say they studied four record-setting winter emergencies that occurred in the last ten years. Student Stuart Wagner says the reviewed included "consequences" caused by winter storms.

"Data collected from the National Weather Service indicated about 104 deaths over the last ten years throughout New York State," Wagner said. "They actually had zero deaths for the Niagara Frontier region. But through our research and news archives, we've determined about 14, so deaths are a concern."

Long time local TV weatherman Kevin O'Connell, now at Channel 2 News, was invited to listen to the presentation. While he praised students for their efforts, he disputes some of their local storm stats.

"No body died here," O'Connell said. "The 14 deaths in your study, if memory serves me correctly, ten of those were natural causes. They were seniors who decided to shovel."

The report also calls for establishing a National Center of Excellence in Winter Storm engineering and planning in Buffalo.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear Eileen Buckley's report.