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Heavy Snow Damages Botanical Gardens

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Last week's snow storm took its toll on the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The conservatory was forced to temporarily close due to severe damage from the heavy snow.

Last week, Mother Nature lashed out across Lake Erie. But it wasn't only the green foliage outside that she tried to blanket. More than 300 panes of glass in the historic conservatory gave way under the weight of the roughly seven feet of snow that fell in South Buffalo. Botanical Gardens Director Dr. David Headley says damage throughout ten of the conservatory's 14 buildings was extensive.

"In addition to the glass breaking, there was quite a bit of structural damage due to the weight of the snow," Headley said. "Things like support beams and cross beams had actually bent under the weight of the snow."

One building not damaged was the recently renovated main palm dome. Headley says that's thanks, in large part, to the massive restoration effort. The county-funded $2.5 million project, completed last summer, included re-enforcement of the steel structure and installation of break resistant safety glass panels. Remarkably, the conservatory's hundreds of plants - including many exotic and tropical varieties - were also unharmed. Headley says it was actually the snow that protected them.

"That is principally due to the fact that in a given place where snow tends to be so heavy as to break the glass, that even after the glass has cracked and fallen in, the snow acts as a kind of plug," he explained.

Although the full cost of repairs is still being tallied, Headley say it will likely be enormous. However, he adds that the project should qualify for federal emergency aid.

Crews of carpenters have been working overtime, and have completed temporary patches. Headley expects the Gardens will re-open within the next few days. He says he's waiting for the county to give its approval that the conservatory is safe to welcome winter visitors - who might be looking for a little cabin fever relief.