On Thursday, Nov. 17, snow began falling in Buffalo, N.Y. and the greater Western New York area, leaving five people dead as record lake-effect snowfall coated the area.
Orchard Park, a town just south of the City of Buffalo, is believed to have broken the record of 24-hour snowfall in New York State with a reported minimum of 66 inches of snowfall beginning that Thursday. Meteorologist Patrick Hammer tweeted that a “new bar for lake effect snow has been set,” with the storm’s snowfall totaling 77 inches as he reported on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Although the City of Buffalo itself had not received quite as much snowfall in comparison to the Southtowns (towns including Orchard Park, Buffalo’s southernmost suburbs with a reputation for high snowfall) parts of the city reported over two feet of snow. More records were broken with 16.1 inches of snowfall in one day — the previous record being 7.6 inches. Throughout the region, New York State reported 88 automobile accidents due to the storm and road conditions. One death tied to an automobile accident was reported. Nicholas Perry Sr., 74, was reported missing by his family on Friday, Nov. 18 at the height of the snowfall. On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Perry’s body was discovered by a state police helicopter in a snow-covered field away from his vehicle. He was the only one involved in the crash that ultimately led to his death.
Additionally, there was a total of three deaths tied to cardiac events that occurred while residents were clearing the heavy snow. After the first two deaths, Dr. Gale Burstein, the Erie County Health Commissioner, asked individuals to “please, just let your driveway fill up with snow,” especially given the travel advisories and bans in place.
The fifth reported death related to the storm was an employee of Buffalo’s Department of Public Works. 67-year-old Michael L. Muscarella was killed Wednesday, Nov. 23, as snow removal efforts continued in South Buffalo. A high lift was moving in reverse after removing snow from the street and into a dump truck and struck Muscarella who had fallen on the ice. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Snow removal was placed on a pause from Wednesday evening until 7 a.m. on Friday as a result.
There were some less severe effects of the storm that are minor in comparison to the deaths caused by the snowfall. Orchard Park is where Buffalo’s NFL team is hosted. It became evident that the six-plus-feet of snow could not be moved in time to make room for the Buffalo Bills’ home game on Sunday, Nov. 20. Ultimately, the game against the Cleveland Browns had to be moved to Detroit where there is a fully covered dome stadium. Fans showed their support in any way they could with some shoveling players out of their homes and others making their way to Detroit to be in the crowd on game day.
This first major snowfall of the winter has residents asking a wide array of questions from how the region’s snow procedures can be improved, as well as if the new Bills stadium should have a dome. As winter is just beginning, more snowfall is to be expected.