Story by Elizabeth Grams and Chris Meehan. Photos by Mary Shriver and Lynne Miller.
Buffalo branch members are all safe after five feet of snow fell in parts of their region this week. The total snowfall in some places is expected to reach seven feet by the end of Friday. The region has received almost as much snow in a single week as typically falls during an entire winter.
“It’s been brutal,” says Dave Grzybowski, who spent the week working to remove several feet of snow at his own home and at the nearby church where he works.
Highways and major roads are closed, with hundreds of vehicles still stranded and 12 people reported dead. A driving ban has been in effect in the southern parts of the city, where the snowfall has been heaviest. Schools and businesses throughout the area have been closed since Tuesday, either because they are buried in snow or because their workers are stuck at home.
A few branch members south of town got five feet of snow in 24 hours, but the majority of the branch had less snow, ranging from a few inches to a foot or two.
Greg and Lynne Miller live in Cheektowaga, one of the hardest-hit areas, and they were still snowed in as of Thursday afternoon. Like many, Lynne made an emergency grocery trip on Monday evening when the snow began to fall. “My cart filled with snow as I took the groceries out. It was blowing and snowing. Driving home I couldn’t see. I was praying all the way home, ‘Praise you, Jesus!’ My husband shovelled three times that night. In the morning everything was covered.”
“I haven't been to work for three days,” said John Gehl on Thursday. “Aside from the fact that it would be difficult to get to work (since the streets haven’t been plowed out), there would be no place to park if I got there!”
John explains that the lake-effect snow blowing in from Lake Erie covered an area shaped like a finger extending from the lake. Buffalo is situated on the northeast corner of the lake, so the eastward-moving snow hit mainly the southern part of town and the southern suburbs.
“We had a little thunder snow on Wednesday night,” says Arlene Meyerhoffer, whose home missed most of the snowfall. “There was booming thunder and snow for 15 minutes.”
Marge Stanley relied on her grandchildren to shovel her out of her home. She has lived in Buffalo all her life and says she has never seen this much snow dumped on the area. “I don’t think we’ve had anything like this, even in the blizzard of ‘77!”
Tom and Theresa Shriver live on a small farm south of Buffalo, where Tom raises turkeys as a side business and Theresa runs a craft shop. They have five feet of snow and counting outside their window, but they still hope to get their turkeys to the butcher this weekend before Thanksgiving and to host the annual open house for Theresa’s shop. Tom has been busy trying to keep some of the snow off the turkey pen and carving paths from the house to the barn and to the pen.
“Snowstorms have frequently kept us out of work and homebound for several days at a time,” Tom points out. “We’ve been through it lots of times over the 35 years we’ve lived here.”
He recalls doing the community’s Provident and Resourceful drill decades ago--living for a weekend without power or without using a car, for example. That drill has come in handy this week: the Shrivers are prepared with both city and well water, a wood-burning stove, and plenty of food in stock. Fortunately, they only lost power for a few hours this time.
By Friday morning, area residents were looking ahead to the next hurdles: removing snow and preparing for a rise in temperature this weekend, possibly with rainfall, that could cause massive flooding from melting snow. Many homes covered in heavy snow already have roof damage. Lynne was busy Thursday removing furniture and belongings from her basement in anticipation of flooding.
Bud Northway emailed the branch to cancel Thursday night’s prayer meeting in Black Rock, but branch members still plan to head to the neighborhood on Saturday morning to pray with neighbors at a soup kitchen.
“It’s nothing the hardy people of Buffalo can’t get through!” says Tom.