Severe weather slams WNY, prompts public safety concern

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — After experiencing relatively balmy temperatures throughout much of winter to date, western New Yorkers are experiencing a stark change.

The shift took many by surprise, as clean and clear roads to start the week turned to slush and pitfalls for the average driver, with many car accidents and wrecks gumming up traffic.

Several roads were closed for multiple hours as slippery conditions caused serious crashes, but parents in Niagara County were concerned when a bus crashed into a ditch due to the conditions.

Fourteen students were on the bus at the time, and one sustained minor injuries. The Carmen & Somerset accident just before 3 p.m. angered some parents who thought schools should have cancelled classes, or dismissed early.

Meanwhile, officials briefed the public for what will likely be the worst storm in February. Erie County officials held a conference to prepare the public for what could be a potentially deadly cold snap.

“This is a minor storm in some ways, but we want everyone to know what we have on the road,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “Wind chills could reach -30 degrees tonight. These are the conditions that can rapidly deteriorate and someone could die in.”

MORE | See a warning to residents about the bitter cold with tips for preventing and treating frostbite here. 

Poloncarz stood with Erie County Commissioner of Health Gale Burstein and other county officials to warn people of the potentially dangerous conditions, and advise them about potential health risks.

The officials said Erie County would have 25 plows rotating through the area during the heaviest period of snow, but more were available if more snow fell than was forecast.

Burstein made a plea to those who would be in the elements, especially young children and the elderly, asking residents to keep an eye on both.

Officials said those who can simply ride out the storm by staying inside should do so, and those with heart conditions should avoid shoveling.

“Most of the Winter Storm Knife deaths were heart attacks,” Poloncarz said.

Although the current storm will be nothing like the Snowvember storm, it is expected to be one of the more serious storms of the season.

To see additional photo and video elements in this story if on the News 4 App, click here. 

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