Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Flashback - The 2006 October Storm

Six years ago today, the infamous October Storm wreaked havoc on Western New York. Radar - Buffalo October Storm 2006

And oh what fun it was! I still have so many lovely, dark, cold memories...

On October 12th, 2006, my daughter was in 1st grade, and my son was a student in the Toddler Room at the daycare center where I was working as a pre-school teacher assistant. We were scheduled to take our annual trip to the Pumpkin Farm that day. But as I dropped my daughter off at school around 9 am, I really began to hope that the trip would be cancelled -- it was getting very cold and the rain wasn't letting up. Wet, muddy, frozen pre-schoolers are not fun to deal with, especially in large groups. At around 10am, our director decided to cancel the trip and we stayed indoors at the center as it rained steadily for the rest of the morning and afternoon. At around 3pm as I headed over to my daughter’s school to pick her up, the rain turned to sleet…then to tiny snowflakes…..and before long there were these BIG, fluffy flakes of snow falling out of the sky! As everyone knows, snow not a novelty in Buffalo -- but it’s really not the norm in mid-October. My son was thrilled when he saw the fluffy flakes. I remember thinking it was pretty neat to have such an early first snowfall. As parents gathered and stood outside the school, we all kept looking up in the sky, shaking our heads in disbelief and groaning... "Well, I guess that’s Buffalo for ya”, while the kids giggled and tried to catch the snowflakes on their tongues. Everyone thought it was crazy, funny…definitely unusual for that time of year. It was a fluke. Little did we know…

That night, we ordered pizza and watched the Sabres game (luckily it was an away game). We had the pizza delivered and when the delivery guy came around 7pm, he told us we’d better move our car out from underneath our giant tree out front if we didn’t want it to get crushed. We thanked him for the warning but really kinda laughed it off. We didn’t know at that point that there were trees cracking and breaking all over WNY. The weight of the snow was too much for them bear, considering most of them still had lots of leaves. I got an eerie feeling when I opened the front door a little while later to look around and from every direction I could hear faint sounds of tree branches snapping and crashing down. Our neighbor from across the street called us at one point to tell us that the giant maple tree in her backyard had just split in half and crushed her pool. And around 8pm, we heard a loud crash in our front yard. I went outside to investigate and saw this…

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but a huge branch from one of our two large trees had snapped and hit the house on its way down – not hard, thankfully. The top of it was now laying across our front window. And until about half an hour before this pic was taken, our car was right in that spot. Thank goodness for the pizza dude! I also attempted to take a picture of the snow as it was falling…

We watched the 11:00 news and learned that this kind of thing was happening all over western New York. Tree branches were falling through peoples’ windows, roofs, etc. We went to sleep that night figuring we’d have no electricity by morning. We were right. It went out in the middle of the night, and it didn’t come back for a full seven days.

The morning paper…Friday - October 13th.
Front Page of Buffalo News October Storm 2006

This was the view from our front window. There’s that tree branch that hit the house.

The pic below is our side yard. That smushed mound of branches on the left is actually a tree. We used to call it our popcorn tree because that’s what it looked like in the spring when it flowered. It hasn’t been the same since and it looks somewhat deranged, because most of its branches were crushed.

This is how Jeff spent his day. Snowblowing in October!
The snow was unusually heavy, so this took a while for him to do.

An electrical (or maybe phone) line in our backyard...
Pretty much all the lines were completely encased in ice.

Cars were buried…everything was a big, white mess.

I was really anxious that morning. I’ve lived here my whole life and am very used to snow, but I’ve never personally seen it do so much damage before. We listened to the news on the radio and the reports were unbelievable. 300,000 homes said to be without power…trees and live, downed power lines were blocking entire roads - the whole region was declared to be in a State of Emergency. There was a driving ban almost everywhere. And at that point, National Grid was predicting the electricity wouldn’t be restored until at least the next day. THAT seemed crazy to me. Had I known it was actually going to be seven days…I would’ve lost my mind.

The snowfall amounts were incredible:

By October 14th, most of the snow had melted in our area, and it was easier to see the damage…

Jeff had to cut the giant broken limbs with his dad’s chainsaw in order to make them easier to move.
To this day, we still have one of the branches in our backyard garden.

Got this priceless photo of the kids that week.
We camped out in the family room together every night to stay warm until the power came back on...

The next week was painfully long. No electricity meant no heat, no lights, no computer…. no watching SABRES GAMES! Our food was spoiling and the freezer was leaking. We ate a LOT of sandwiches and Jeff even cooked a pot of macaroni and cheese on the grill outside one night. He went to work because his store was back up and running after the first couple days. But since the schools were closed for an entire week, the kids and I spent our days coloring and listening to the radio, trying to get some sense of when things would be back to normal. I really enjoyed having a whole week of them to myself. That was one HUGE pro to the whole ordeal. It was so odd when we went out at night because there were no street lights and no one had lights on in their houses unless they had generators. By day six, our street was humming loudly with generators, including one that my mother's boss had lent to us. We could only power one light and the TV for a couple of hours with it. When the power came back on, it was like heaven. The house was warm, the TV was on and the Sabres were winning. And now I could SEE them! Doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Buffalo gets a bad rap for it’s snowy weather. The whole country seems to be under the impression that that’s how it is here all the time. Not even close. We get to experience all four seasons. Sunny, hot summers (especially this past summer!), white Christmases, beautiful colors in fall and the new colorful flowers in the spring. I love it here! I’m thankful to be here and would never want to live in the southern states, threatened by hurricanes that destroy everything in their path. Like my husband says – everyone complains about Buffalo weather – but OUR natural disasters MELT! Of course, I’d rather not have another October Storm, but if we have one we'll deal. I still have flashbacks when the lights are out and we have candles lit. Tonight is the closest we have come to having a repeat of the storm, because it is VERY cold out and the whole region is under a freeze warning until morning. And the trees still have most of their leaves... Here’s hoping the first snowfall waits until November. Or at least Halloween!

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