WNY storm claims 13 lives

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – County officials reminded the public Friday that “the danger is not over,” from the Arctic Blast that now has claimed 13 lives in western New York.

The death toll rose to 13 Friday evening. Officials announced that a 68-year-old man died of a heart attack while clearing snow in Cheektowaga.

Several travel bans and road closures are still in place, and more trouble is expected as the temperature rises and rain is added to the heavy snow. snow totals

“The good news is it seems like the snow has stopped, and we have gone through the worst in terms of snowfall.” Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday, there are more challenges to deal with as temperatures go up, there will be melting and flooding.

“We are preparing now for more flooding than we have seen in a long, long time,” said Cuomo.

Mayor Byron Brown advised residents to remove items from basements, and to unplug items that may take on water. He said if you go into your basement and see water, call for assistance.

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Thirteen people have died in the storm. A 50-year-old man was found in a vehicle Friday in Cheektowaga. Assistant Police Chief Jim Speyer said he was in a vehicle on Innsbruck Drive, several hundred yards off of Union Road. One person died after being transported from the Garden Gate Nursing Home Thursday. The county originally reported two people died there, and later confirmed there was one death.

Erie County officials said Thursday, two  people died due exposure to the elements. Both people had mental health issues. One died in Niagara and another died in the town of Boston.

Officials said on Wednesday afternoon, a person went into cardiac arrest, while trying to move a snow blower. An elderly man died Wednesday, officials said he wasn’t able to get transferred to a facility which could assist him. He died at an urgent care center.

Four people who died in the storm died of cardiac issues from shoveling.  A 45-year-old in Alden was found buried under snow. His car reportedly slid into a ditch and was buried 12-15 feet under.

Another man died after he was pinned to his car while attempting to push it out of the snow in Cheektowaga.

digCuomo said he is receiving support from all over the state and neighboring states.

“Everyone says the same thing, ‘What do you need?’ ‘When do you need it?” Cuomo explained, “I say ‘Buffalo,’ they say ‘Whatever you need, just tell me.’”

County officials said there have been 30 roof collapses due to the heavy snow, in addition to 90 partial collapses and hundreds of buildings they are monitoring. The buildings are mainly farm buildings and flat-roof buildings. No one has been injured in the collapsed buildings, however some farm animals have been hurt.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz says more than 5,000 people are working this storm.

It’s one of the worst storms he can remember.  He echoed the governor saying it’s time to prepare for flooding and no unnecessary travel, even if the ban is lifted.

Governor Cuomo declared an emergency order Friday, allowing storm victims to go to the nearest pharmacy for the medications they need. Dennis Galutzo, Executive Director of the Pharmacists Association of WNY, said pharmacists would fill non-controlled substances for people in emergency situations even without this order, but it clears the way for them to do it and not worry about ramifications. They will still be leary of controlled substances, but will be allowed to fill them under this order and will confirm through shared sources the validity.

If in distress, people are encouraged to call 911. For those in Erie County, Erie County Emergency Dispatch’s numbers are 898-3696 or 681-7111. County Executive Mark Poloncarz said all calls will be heard, and people who are snowed in through an emergency will be reached by snowmobile.

The storm is expected to stress the budgets of many highway departments across western New York, but Governor Cuomo said federal aid can’t be counted on just yet. FEMA only awards aid in “extreme” cases, Cuomo said, but he noted he would push for assistance once damage can be assessed.

“When we add up all the damage it’s going to be a very large amount of money,” Cuomo said.

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