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The snow may be gone, but Buffalo is still cleaning up

From the Associated Press:

Over 100,000 customers remained without power Wednesday and schools were still closed nearly a week after a record-setting snowstorm, and officials raised the toll of storm-related deaths to 12 people.

Health officials said the deaths include one person hit by a falling tree limb, three killed by carbon monoxide and two who died shoveling snow.

"If you have one death it's bad," Erie County Health Commissioner Anthony Billitier said.

The surprise storm dumped up to two feet of heavy snow on Buffalo and surrounding areas last Thursday and Friday.

With round-the-clock cleanup efforts continuing, about 101,500 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday and schools in Buffalo and surrounding towns said they would be unable to reopen until next week. About 380,000 people originally lost power in the storm.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response as inadequate, saying the agency had offered little guidance on reimbursement and loan programs and snubbed the city of Buffalo during a tour of damage this week.

FEMA officials defended their response, saying they had readied generators and other equipment even before a Sunday disaster declaration that made up to $5 million in cleanup funds immediately available.

Tuesday marked day six without electricity for 85-year-old Helene Lipman, and the water in her basement had crept to the first step, so she moved into a Red Cross shelter at an elementary school.

Lipman said there had been some laughs at shelter, but with her power likely out through the coming weekend, the sense of adventure was wearing thin.

"Absolutely fed up," she said when asked how she was faring. "I'm going to lose my furnace, washer, dryer."

Utility crews from 10 states and Canada worked to restore power amid a soaking rain. State police helped direct traffic at darkened intersections and National Guard troops helped clear fallen tree limbs.

"I'm getting used to it but I want to go back home," said Denise Dellamora, 52, of Lackawanna, who began staying at a Red Cross shelter in Buffalo Sunday. At first, Dellamora tried waiting out the dark under blankets at home.

"It was very cold, and with no phone, no heat it was just unbearable," she said. "I felt cut off from civilization."

Mayor Byron Brown said police had stepped up patrols in areas still without power.

"We know that as the days go on, frustration will rise," Brown said, "but we ask people to continue to be patient."

Posted by Bryan Woods | Permalink