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Erie County storm officials switching gears from snow to flooding

Mike Desmond

With the winter storm departing, the cleanup is continuing. Attention now turns to the weather turning warmer, melting snow and ice and potentially clogging area streams.

Emergency services personnel in Erie County have known they would have to pivot from snow and cold to some warmth. County Deputy Emergency Services Commissioner Greg Butcher said precautions are already in place in flood spots like West Seneca's Lexington Green.

"A significant berm is in place. It's meant to be a little more esthetically pleasing than you would expect, but it is, in fact, a berm," Butcher said. "Unfortunately, Mother Nature has its own means of creating these problems, whether it's falling trees in creeks that have broken up and made their way down. I mean this starts much further in these creeks than even in Erie County."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Senior Services Commissioner Tim Hogues acknowledges efforts to restart Meals on Wheels service.

"Temporary and permanent berm, which is in place, as well as additional sand bags, were delivered to the community by the Town of West Seneca," said County executive mark Poloncarz. "I know our Department of Public Works has sand bags available to be provided, as well. We're watching it. There's no doubt about it. There's not a lot we can do, other than work with our partners if there's ice jams further down in the creek to try to eliminate those ice jams."

Friday morning, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul also said water pumps and National Guard are on standby to help with flooding efforts.

"We know where the hot spots are," Hochul said. "These are areas that are accumstomed to flooding," referring to neighboods along creeks and rivers.

Hochul said tickets continue to be issued to trucks who violated the tractor trailer ban on the 90, 190 and 290. Although that ban has been lifted, she said "that ban kept Western New York from being paralyzed," as has happened in the past. Likewsie, for the gates injstalled across 90, 400 and 219 entrances and exits.

"In the past, there wasn't as much collaboration between state, county and city officials," she said. "These are some of the changes we've implemented."

Meals on Wheels will be starting up across the county and the Going Places bus system will start Friday, getting people where they need to go. Senior Services Commissioner Tim Hogues said besides regular Meals on Wheels service, the program will start restocking emergency "blizzard boxes."

"During this time of these past two days, individuals may have consumed what we call their 'blizzard box,' Hogues said. "Those are shelf-ready, stable meals which are delivered by those organizations in the case of an emergency like this when the services were not available. So we are going to put an effort together, working with our partners at all three organizations, to make sure that we replenish those blizzard boxes."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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