Extra nurses called to help busy hospitals nearly a week after NY storm cut power to thousands

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 9:30 pm
By: News On 6

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The state sent extra nurses Wednesday to help out at busy hospitals treating people for injuries related to last week's record-setting snowstorm, which knocked out power to thousands and was blamed for 12 deaths.

More than 170 people have been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning from using improperly vented generators and stoves for heat. Others have hurt themselves or had heart attacks clearing mounds of tree limbs that litter the region.

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.

With round-the-clock cleanup efforts continuing, about 95,000 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 that dumped up to two feet of heavy snow the area last Thursday and Friday.

Several hospitals reported overcrowding over the weekend because they were unable to discharge patients to homes without electricity or on streets blocked by trees or downed power lines.

The state Health Department deployed 17 nurses from around the state, in the first use of a special emergency nursing program set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The emergency nursing program keeps a registry of 1,400 nurses around the state, Health Department spokesman Marc Carey said.

"They're relieving our staff, who have been working a lot of overtime over the past five or six days," said Michael Hughes, spokesman for Kaleida Health, which operates five hospitals. Many nurses had been unable to tend to storm damage at their own homes because of the workload, Hughes said.

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.

In the West, a wintry storm began to move out of Colorado on Wednesday after dropping more than a foot of snow in the mountains, snarling traffic and hampering the search for two hunters in the northwest corner of the state. One of the missing hunters was found
Wednesday in good condition.

Up to 13 inches of snow fell in the mountains and foothills along the Front Range, slowing traffic and downing power lines that sparked tree fires in Colorado Springs. A two-car collision on icy roads Wednesday killed a woman and injured a 3-year-old boy in her car near Greeley.

The storm brought the first significant snow of the season to Denver.