Sunshine returns as Buffalo cleans up after weeklong storm that buried it in 7 feet of snow

<br>BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Sunshine returned to Buffalo on Saturday as the city set to work digging out from under nearly 7 feet of snow piled up by a storm that lasted most of the week. <br><br>National

Saturday, December 29th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Sunshine returned to Buffalo on Saturday as the city set to work digging out from under nearly 7 feet of snow piled up by a storm that lasted most of the week.

National Guard troops and crews from other cities helped city workers dig out streets and haul away snow. Prison inmates cleared fire hydrants while residents with shovels and snow blowers tackled eye-level mounds covering their driveways and cars.

``I've never seen snow this deep,'' said Dennis Myers, a landlord using a snow blower to clear his parking lot.

At least three deaths were blamed on the snow in the Buffalo area, one an 83-year-old killed by a collapsing carport.

Traffic began moving again Saturday on a 75-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway, a major east-west highway, which had been closed since Thursday. Buffalo Niagara International Airport reopened late Friday after being snowed in much of the week.

Practice makes perfect, said Mayor Tony Masiello.

``There's nobody in America who can deal with snow removal like Buffalo's street crews,'' Masiello said. ``We just flat out know how to deal with this. We've had a lot of practice.''

Cold wind feeding on moisture from Lake Erie dropped 82.3 inches of snow in five days before shifting southward Friday to ski country. The city's average for an entire year is 93.5 inches.

``Even by Buffalo's standards, it was very severe,'' said Masiello, forced to watch the whole thing from afar when the snow kept him from returning from an out-of-town trip.

As the snow shifted out of the Buffalo area it headed into Pennsylvania, causing sudden whiteouts.

Near Loganton, Pa., a 51-vehicle pileup on Interstate 80 killed six people on Friday and injured many more. Separate chain-reaction crashes blamed on whiteouts elsewhere in the state killed two other people.

I-80 near Loganton has always been a dangerous stretch of road, said 74-year-old Sheldon Miller. ``You're right on top of the mountain,'' he said Saturday. ``When it's windy and snowing, it can be hard to keep control.''

Farther west, snow blowing in from Lake Michigan buried parts of northern Michigan, with state police saying some parts of Emmet County had received nearly 90 inches of snow since Dec. 25. Michigan Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus declared a snow emergency for the county.

Most main streets in Buffalo were passable Saturday but side streets were in poor shape, said Mike Walters, Erie County's commissioner of emergency services. He worried that high wind forecast for Sunday would hinder efforts to clear them.

``Some have upwards of 4 feet of snow in them,'' he said. ``We need to be able to get fire apparatus and other emergency vehicles through them.''

Some property owners faced the damage of flat roofs that buckled under the weight of the snow.

Plans went ahead for a New Year's Eve celebration centered on the arrival of the Olympic torch, and schools were still scheduled to reopen from Christmas break on Wednesday.

``You know, in Washington when there's two inches of snow it shuts down,'' said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. ``Here, there's seven feet of snow and the main roads are all plowed.''

Many people who were out Saturday shared his civic pride.

``Buffalo is a pretty kind place anyway. But as soon as snow hits, everyone becomes your new best friend,'' Christine Collins said as she shoveled out her car. ``There's people that are scouting around with skis on and they call back to headquarters, they're like: 'Young woman on North Forest stuck.' And like five people come out and push you out.''

The storm came after two unusually mild months: Buffalo had its first snowless November on record, and only 1.2 inches of snow fell through Dec. 23.

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