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Public forums on March wind storm response scheduled

WBFO's Eileen Buckley

New York State regulators have scheduled public meetings to gather comments from utility customers impacted by the windstorm that knocked out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses in Western New York earlier this month.

The state Department of Public Service says hearings will be held April 12 at the Southside Commerce Center Auditorium in East Aurora and April 13 on Monroe Community College's Brighton campus in suburban Rochester.

Winds gusting to 80 mph knocked out power across a wide swath of Western New York March 8-11. Power lines, utility poles and trees were damaged throughout the area. Niagara Falls and Batavia issued bans on unnecessary travel.

More than half of the 200,000 outages were in the Rochester area. However, on the second day of the storm, some 45,000 customers in the Buffalo area were still in the dark and many customers were left without power for several days.

Credit WBFO's Eileen Buckley

National Grid called in crews from Eastern New York, Massachusetts and Canada to assist with restoration efforts. The American Red Cross has opened shelters across the Western and Central New York Region, providing residents in need with a safe, warm place to stay, as well as food and water. Erie County Sheriff deputies made welfare checks on local residents who depend on electrically powered medical devices.

Afterward Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into how the utility companies prepared for and responded to the storm.