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Erie County officials ready for storm; it's the cold that concerns them

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie County leaders gathered in Cheektowaga Friday afternoon to discuss preparations for snowy conditions this weekend. It's not the anticipated snow accumulation that concerns them the most. It's the frigid wind chills expected on Sunday - wind chills which pose a serious threat to those outside, they warn.

Displaying several pieces of equipment, from a snow plow truck to snowmobiles and ATVs, Erie County officials say the snow expected to gather in Western New York is significant, but not extraordinary. The significant snowfall is expected to begin Saturday afternoon and continue overnight into Sunday.

It's the wind Sunday which worries officials more. Wind chills are expected to drop into negative teen temperatures.

Officials are urging the public to stay indoors as much as possible.

"Whenever people go out into dangerous situations, they not only put themselves at risk, they put first responders and others at risk," said Erie County Executive mark Poloncarz. "That was a big problem in Winter Storm Knife (in 2014). The conditions were so bad, people were calling us saying they were stuck. They didn't even know where they were. We couldn't send anybody out because it was too dangerous at times to send people out. When we finally did send them out, we didn't know where they were.

"I know it's pretty cold now but it's not nearly as cold as it's going to be on Sunday."

It'll be cold enough, officials warn, that even road salts laid down to treat snow will lose effectiveness.

"The salt does not react well, once it gets below 10 degrees," said Public Works Commissioner William Geary. "Friction from the vehicles on high-traffic routes help break down that salt and help the process. We'll conserve salt in those instances for that short period of time when we're looking at negative temperatures."

Officials will be looking out for local homeless and getting them off the streets into shelters. Emergency services leaders recommend staying in. Commissioner Daniel Neaverth, Jr. recommended watching the NFL playoff games. County Executive Poloncarz put his own spin on the late Buffalo mayor James Griffin's famous "grab a six pack" comment during the Blizzard of 1985.

His suggestion, had they still existed? A bucket of OV Splits, a popular option for bar goers until a few years ago.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and other county officials discuss the weekend's anticipated snow storm, Friday, January 18, 2019.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.