PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM/AP) — On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Pennsylvania is sending snow removal equipment and personnel to Buffalo, New York, to support snow-clearing efforts there. More than three dozen deaths have been reported in western New York from the blizzard that raged across much of the country, with Buffalo in its crosshairs on Friday and Saturday. The storm dumped more than 4 feet of snow in the region, Wolf’s office said.
“The astounding pictures and video out of Buffalo remind us that the weather can completely interrupt our plans, sadly with deadly consequences,” said Wolf. “Pennsylvanians know how debilitating winter storms can be, and we’re happy that we can support our neighbors to the north when they need our help.” PennDOT is sending nine dump trucks as well as operators and support personnel to help clear snow from roadways in and around Buffalo, Wolf said. The PennDOT crews are expected to arrive on Dec. 29 to begin 24-hour operations.
The request for assistance was made via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands to share resources during disasters, Wolf’s office explained. Buffalo roads reopened Thursday as authorities continued searching for people who may have died or are stuck and suffering after last week’s blizzard.
The driving ban in New York’s second-most-populous city was lifted just after midnight Thursday, Mayor Byron Brown announced. “Significant progress has been made” on snow removal, he said at a news conference late Wednesday. Suburban roads, major highways, and Buffalo Niagara International Airport had already reopened.
The National Guard was going door to door to check on people who lost power, and authorities faced the possibility of finding more victims as snow melted amid increasingly mild weather. Buffalo police and officers from other law enforcement agencies also searched for victims, sometimes using officers’ personal snowmobiles, trucks and other equipment.
With the death toll already surpassing that of the area’s notorious Blizzard of 1977, local officials faced questions about the response to last week’s storm. They insisted that they prepared but that the weather was extraordinary, even for a region prone to powerful winter storms. “The city did everything that it could under historic blizzard conditions,” the mayor, a Democrat, said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, officials watched a forecast that calls for some rain later in the week as snow melts in temperatures approaching or topping 50 degrees (10 Celsius). The National Weather Service forecast that any flooding would be minor, but state and local officials said they were preparing nonetheless. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said the state was ready to deploy nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators for flooding response efforts if needed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.