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Nov 22, 2014 4:33 PM

Cleanup on, flood threat looms after huge NY snow

The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Beth Bragg's home was spared the worst of a lake-effect storm that buried parts of the Buffalo area under more than 7 feet of snow. But she was still out first-thing Saturday with her shovel along with hundreds of other volunteers.

"I know that people really need to get shoveled out, especially some of the older folks, so I'm just doing my part to help out," said the bank manager and "shovel brigade" member.

The weekend offered the region a chance to dig out before a flood watch was to take effect because of rising temperatures and rain. And Buffalo was living up to its nickname, "The City of Good Neighbors."

"They're like angels," said Kevin Masterson, 61, after a handful of volunteers swarmed in to free his and his brother-in-law's cars from the drifts. "I was out shoveling and ... all of the sudden I had all these people."

One of the volunteers, Greg Schreiber, said he'd keep gong "until the back gives out."

Seneca Street in south Buffalo was jammed with dump trucks, military vehicles and front loaders rumbling through the streets as they hauled away the canyon walls of snow.

"It's just a war zone here," said Eric Ginsburg, standing outside of his store, Ginzy's. "All the military here, the police. It's just crazy. Most snow I've ever seen."

With roughly the equivalent of six inches of rain tied up in the snowpack, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for 1 p.m. Sunday through 7 a.m. Wednesday. Temperatures were expected to be near 50 degrees on Sunday and near 60 on Monday.

Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and uncollected autumn leaves block catch basins. The threat of rain also heightened fears of roof collapses on already strained structures. Thirty major collapses have been reported.

"We don't have a crystal ball. We can't say exactly whether there will be a flooding problem. We can't say what kind of structure collapses we're going to have," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after touring the region for a fourth day. "But we anticipate both to some extent."

The storm, which began late Monday and finally cleared out of all areas by daybreak Friday, has been blamed for at least a dozen deaths.

Officials urged people to put off nonessential travel as snow removal efforts went on. The state Thruway, however, was fully reopened Saturday four days after 132-mile stretch had to be closed and a number of motorists were stranded.

After visiting a Buffalo hospital, Sen. Charles Schumer said he would push for federal disaster assistance. He said he was moved by stories of good will, including of nurses who had been on duty for days because others couldn't make it in.

"Neighbors looking out for neighbors. Just amazing," he said.

Leonard Bishop walked for nearly four hours to deliver medicine to a friend's mother who was stuck at a hotel six miles away.

"I thought, 'I've got nothing else better to do, I'm going to do it,'" Bishop said. "She's got medical problems and I don't want to see anything happen to her."

Cuomo said such stories were "a whole rainbow" behind the storm.

After Margie Page, 81, paid $600 to have the snow cleared from the roof of her mobile home in suburban Cheektowaga, a group of volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Service arrived at the park ready to go to work.

"I should have waited," Page said, "but I was so afraid of my roof collapsing. I was so anxious to get it done."


Associated Press Writer Carolyn Thompson contributed to this report.


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