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Strong wind storm knocks out power to tens of thousands

Powerful winds gusting in excess of 65 mph swept through the region Thursday night and Friday morning knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.As of 9 a.m., 27,653 National Grid customers were without power in Erie County and 4,160 in Niagara County. Thousands of additional outages were reported across Genesee, Wyoming, Orleans, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

Credit nyseg.com
NYSEG's outage map, as of 9 a.m., shows tens of thousands of customers without power. The tri-color symbol represents multiple outages and the number in the center represents the number of outages, each of which represent hundreds of customers.

NYSEG reported 15,896 customers without power in Erie County and 4,150 in Wyoming County. Outages were also affecting Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

By 2 p.m. those numbers were down to approximately 24,000 total customers without service in Erie County and around 28,000 total across Western New York.

"The first priority when we face these types of conditions is to make safe. So clearing downed wires and tree debris that might pose an immediate threat to public safety. In addition after that, we are assessing damages and isolating outages, and beginning restoration," said Michael Jamison, Manager of Corporate Communications for NYSEG.

Jamison said NYSEG took proactive measures ahead of the storm, pre-staging crews in Western New York. Statewide, 1,400 field personnel are out working to restore power in tough conditions.

National Grid Regional Manager Ken Kujawa said restoration work has been ongoing since the storm began and will continue into early evening Saturday. The company is listing 8 p.m. Saturday as an estimated restoration time for Erie County, but Kujawa warned against reading too much into that time.

"I want to be clear that estimated restoration times listed on our website indicate when we believe the last customer in any community will be restored," Kujawa said.

A high wind warning and a lakeshore flood warning for parts of Western New York which had been in effect since 8 p.m. Thursday were canceled late Friday morning. Erie Basin Marina & Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, formerly LaSalle Park, were closed to vehicular traffic and pedestrians.

The storm knocked down trees and flooding has been reported across much of the region. Several schools are closed Friday, including schools #4 and #65 in Buffalo. The Lewiston-Porter and Lockport districts canceled classes for the day, as did several individual schools that lost power. The Albion district delayed the start of classes for two hours.

Credit nationalgridus.com
National Grid 's outage map shows multiple outages across Western New York.

The wind storm has downed trees across the region and lead to closed roads, including portions of Route 5. Crews have worked throughout the night to clear debris, an effort that will continue throughout the day on Friday. Travelers are being reminded to street any malfunctioning street lights as four-way stops and to assume any downed power lines are live. Anyone who sees a downed line is asked to report it to 911.

Mayor Byron Brown, in a Friday morning news conference, said there have been no reported injuries from the storm. He said more than 200 fallen trees have been reported and eight traffic signals in the city remain out, with officers manning those streets to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

The city's fire department fielded 150 calls, including two structure fires. In one of those blazes, firefighters rescued two individuals who used wheelchairs.

"We also had a water rescue call at the intersection of Niagara and Tonawanda. One of the viaducts there was flooded. We had a total of four individuals rescued at that time, three from a pickup truck and another young lady who was rescued from the top of her car," Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said.

The mayor said state resources have arrived and he has been in contact with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. Brown said the governor has offered to provide additional equipment to the area, but the mayor doesn't believe that is needed at this time.

Cuomo, early Friday afternoon, declared a state of emergency for 11 New York counties including Erie and Chautauqua. Two-hundred members of the National Guard equipped with bobcats, dump trucks and front-end loaders will assist localities with response and cleanup operations.  

National Grid is offering free bottled water and dry ice to residents who remain without power from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the following locations:

  • Gloria J. Parks Community Center, 3242 Main St., Buffalo
  • Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road, Amherst
  • Niagara Falls Fire Station 8, 320 Hyde Park Blvd., Niagara Falls

WBFO's Chris Caya, Thomas O'Neil-White and Avery Schneider contributed to this report.

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