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Overnight Thunderstorms Rattle Region

By Mark Wozniak and Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A flash flood watch has been posted for Erie, Genesee and Wyoming Counties for Friday and Friday night, in the wake of severe overnight thunderstorms.

Utility crews spent Friday morning restoring power to several thousand customers across the region, and some area creeks were running at or above flood stage. Two and a quarter inches of rain were recorded at the airport weather station. Flood waters closed the Kensington Expressway underpass at Genesee and Dick Roads for a while overnight.

The National Weather service charted at least twelve hundred lightning strikes during the 10 o'clock hour Thursday night. Lightning sparked a few house fires. Grand Island middle and high schools, Villa Maria Academy, and East Aurora schools, were closed Friday.

The storm came on the heels of several weeks of dry weather, and the overnight rain was the first precipitation of the month.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Steve McLaughlin said the dry weather was starting to have an impact.

"It was becoming an issue for people who have gardens," McLaughlin said. "Some farmers were beginning to irrigate. It's very unusual to have such dry ground conditions at the beginning of June."

McLaughlin said one reason for the dry weather is that the relatively cool temperatures in Lake Erie stabilize the atmosphere, creating a shadow over the immediate Buffalo area that has kept us free of showers. But he says the unseasonably hot weather of recent days will continue to spawn some showers and thunderstorms throughout the weekend.

The American Lung Association of New York says another consequence of the heat and humidity is unhealthy air quality. Association Vice President Peter Iwanowicz says ozone levels are high, which could cause respiratory problems in people at risk.

"Anybody with lung disease is at risk," Iwanowicz said. "So, if you're a child or adult with asthma, or a senior with chronic lung disease, or if you're out working in construction or landscaping, you're breathing this pollution in."

Buffalo had its first 90 degree day in nearly three years Thursday. The official temperature at the airport weather station hit 90 during the 2:00 hour and again shortly after 4:00, tying the record set for this date in 1979.