U.S.

Deadly Blizzard could have done better


A top Erie County official acknowledged Tuesday that authorities “absolutely” could have done a better job the blizzard over the weekend which killed at least 33 people.

Critics bashed officials for everything from issuing a travel ban just 41 minutes before it goes into effect on Friday – leaving many drivers stranded on the road as deadly conditions rapidly worsened—to failure to call the National Guard soon enough.

Authorities shot back that the superstorm and the murderous chaos it caused was actually an act of God.

“When we were told we were going to have a storm for generations, when we heard terms like a bomb cyclone, it’s something we’re used to in western New York, in Buffalo and Erie counties,” Sheriff John Garcia told reporters on Tuesday.

“But I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said, noting the “zero visibility” that kept many emergency crews off the road during the height of the “the blizzard of the century.”

On Saturday, up to two-thirds of the county’s emergency vehicles were still useless including because of issues like abandoned and stranded cars clogging the streets, Dem County Executive Mark Poloncartz said at the time.

A top Erie County official acknowledged Tuesday that authorities “absolutely” could have done a better job of handling the blizzard in the upstate over the weekend.
AP

“We planned,” Garcia insisted Tuesday, echoing officials from Hochul down.

“But we never thought it would be as bad as it was,” he admitted. “So should we be okay? Absolutely. Better gear, more gear.”

But some critics blasted the county on a key issue they say is under the authority’s control — when to issue a travel ban.

Eric County didn’t put the ban in place until 9:30 a.m. Friday, after days of warnings of impending severe weather — and as the storm began moving quickly toward the area with hurricane-level winds.

The county warned travelers that the ban was being implemented – but only 41 minutes earlier, at 8:49 a.m. Friday, when many people were already on the road ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend.

The region’s staggering death toll includes at least several people who died in their cars, such as 22-year-old Andel Taylor, who fell into a trap leaves his shift at a Buffalo hospital on Friday.

Taylor was found dead in her car on the road the next day, possibly from carbon monoxide poisoning as she tried to keep warm while waiting for emergency crews to rescue her, her mother said.

Poloncarz insisted to The Post on Tuesday: “I think the preparation [for the storm] it was good.

“The problem was when the blizzard hit hard, which was around noon on Friday,” he said.

“We talked about the expected arrival on Thursday, which was originally around 10am [Friday]. Arrived early,” said pol.

Deadly Blizzard could have done better
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said preventative measures could have been taken to prevent many deaths.
Facebook/Erie County Sheriffs

“It went from rain to sleet to snow in a very short period of time around 8:30am [Friday]. And then it really started to hit me in full earnest around 11:30 in the afternoon.

“As soon as it became clear that we would have to issue the driving ban, we did,” he said.

He said he had virtually no authority over nonessential businesses that chose to stay open, effectively encouraging workers and customers to take to the streets.

“On Thursday, I advised all private businesses to close for the next day. … I can’t order them to close unless I declare essentially the equivalent of martial law,” Poloncarz said.

“So at that point we were in a situation where we made the recommendations.”

Poloncarz and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown railed against rogue drivers who flout the travel ban, saying they divert valuable resources when they crash or get stuck and call for help or simply abandon their vehicles, creating roadblocks for emergency crews.

The taunts are so bad that Poloncarz finally announced on Tuesday that 100 National Guard military police were deployed around Buffalo’s city limits and at its major intersections to deter them.

“We tried to enforce the driving ban, but people kept ignoring it,” the county executive told The Post. “It just bothered me to no end.”

Buffalo cops on Tuesday were still working their way through 1,000 911 calls, some dating back to Friday night, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said. according to the Buffalo News.

He said the department’s computer system groaned under the load and that the cops’ Ford Explorer SUVs were unable to handle the calls given the driving conditions.

“We were shut down,” he said of the department during the storm. “It was an absolute traffic jam, it was snowing and we couldn’t drive anymore. It was demoralizing.”

Critics also say the National Guard should have been called in sooner.
Critics blasted officials for everything from issuing a travel ban just 41 minutes before it took effect on Friday.
Getty Images

Marauders have taken advantage of the situation and ransacked some stores as officers became stranded, officials said.

Gramaglia said Tuesday that the department has created an “anti-robbery detail” to specifically prevent such crimes, the News said.

Democratic Gov. Cathy Hochul drew fire for not sending more National Guardsmen to the region until Saturday.

She highlighted the deployment of a litany of resources before and during the storm, including on Dec. 22 when she announced the state was moving snowplows, plows and other vehicles headed for western New York before the snow began to fall.

But such vehicles could not reach the dozens of stranded drivers, including Taylor.

After local media reported stranded wheeled vehicles, winter sports enthusiasts sprung into action, driving their snowmobiles and snowmobiles — tracked vehicles capable of moving in virtually any frigid conditions — wherever needed.

“There was a state trooper who was stuck in his car. There were two state troopers who were off-duty trying to get to work, but they got stuck at the same intersection,” Richard McNamara, treasurer of the North Erie local snowplows, recalled to The Post.

Jackie Bray, commissioner of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, told The Post on Tuesday that deploying National Guard members to the area earlier would not have made any sense given the disaster work involved. , which they will eventually finish.

“This storm, this duration of conditions that did not allow for emergency services and emergency response, was unprecedented and no amount of additional equipment or additional personnel is going to change that,” she said.

“The primary missions of the National Guard have been to transport medical personnel to hospitals. It was for distribution [military rations] and water for first responders. This is to help with fatality management and to assist with search and rescue. All of these missions cannot be active from Friday night until most of the day on Saturday.

Andelle Taylor was trapped leaving her shift at a Buffalo hospital on Friday.
The region’s staggering death toll includes at least several people who died in their cars.
AP

Still, Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, a Democrat, tweeted on Tuesday about the chaos of the storm, “Was this inevitable or was there a failure in communication and preparation?

“I hope there will be a thorough analysis after the recovery,” she wrote.

State Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-East Aurora) told The Post, “I think the governor and the government in western New York in Buffalo, Erie County dropped the ball.

“In short, I think the governor and the majority of the state government were more concerned last week about getting their pay raises than they were about the storm that everyone has been predicting for almost a week,” DiPietro said — referring to the special legislative session called by the leader of state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and Assembly Speaker Carl Hastie because of the increase in Polish wages.

“The National Guard should have been called in faster. There should have been more crews here.

“People should have been told not to drive [sooner]. [Officials] had to close [streets], getting people off the streets a little faster. For some reason that didn’t happen.




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