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    National Guard Responds to Historic Lake Effect Snows in Western NY

    Operation November 2022 Winter Weather, Part III

    Photo By 1st Lt. Jason Carr | 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, responding to snow recovery operations around...... read more read more



    Story by Col. Richard Goldenberg 

    New York National Guard

    BUFFALO, New York -- One hundred and thirty New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen responded to the massive lake-effect snowstorm which hit the Buffalo area on Friday, Nov 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20.

    At the direction of Governor Kathy Hochul, 60 Soldiers and Airmen, divided into three 20-person initial response forces, were placed on duty at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Thursday evening, Nov. 17, prior to the storm.

    The towns and counties next to Lake Erie are accustomed to lake-effect snow, which occurs when cold air passes over the warmer water of Lake Erie, picking up moisture and dropping it over land. But the National Weather Service reported snow fall of six feet in some areas from Nov. 18 to Nov. 21.

    The Soldiers came from the 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo and the headquarters of the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, which is based at the air reserve station. Twenty Airmen from the 107th Attack Wing, also based at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, provided a debris clearance capability, to round out Joint Task Force Lake Effect.

    Requests for National Guard support came from the Erie County Emergency Operations Center, commonly called an EOC, as the snow started on the 18th, according to Major Gary Barney, the task force commander.

    “JTF Lake Effect received its first mission on the 18th to support Erie County with an LMTV (M1079 high axle vehicle),” he said. “It was to help rescue stranded motorists and vehicles,” Barney said.

    “It took some direct conversations with our counterparts for the EOC to understand what we have available,” he added.

    Intense snowfall forced road closures and made travel life threatening, especially in the worst communities south of Buffalo, according to Daniel Neaverth, the Erie County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services Commissioner.

    The rate of the snowfall reached three inches per hour, he said. Some saw a peak of six inches of snowfall an hour.

    With 74 inches of snow falling in Hamburg, New York, the Erie County EOC, called in National Guard forces to help first responders with emergency medical transportation on Saturday, November 19.

    Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Guard was on the ground to "pickup and deliver people who require dialysis.”

    State and local authorities began initial storm planning with a field response team that included the New York State Department of Transportation, State Police, the New York National Guard and the Thruway Authority.

    “I want to thank [Gov. Hochul] for activating the National Guard to help with our emergency response in Hamburg, Orchard Park, and Evans,” Poloncarz wrote.

    “They're doing everything from transporting dialysis patients in the Town of Hamburg here to their appointments, to knocking on doors and making sure that people are safe and trying to help people get through this as best as we can,” Hochul said of the National Guard forces during a November 19 press conference.

    Nearly 90 crashes were reported through November 19 and almost 290 people were rescued from roads overnight during the heaviest snowfall, Hochul said.
    Soldiers used LMTV high axle vehicles to assist first responders in vehicle recovery on local roads.

    “We've been incredible in making sure that we do everything we can to ensure our roads are safe, that they're clear for emergency services,” Hochul said in a storm update November 19.

    Additional forces were deployed on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 to help with snow removal.

    The 174th Attack Wing, based in Syracuse, N.Y., deployed its Oshkosh snow blower, typically employed in clearing runways and taxiways at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, to support the state Department of Transportation.

    The Airmen cleared portions of the New York State Thruway, which is also Interstate 90.

    Soldiers from the 204th Engineer Battalion and the 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion deployed with four front-end loaders and eight ten-ton dump trucks.
    These assets were put to work clearing snow from roadways.

    Additional humvees and personnel from the 102nd Military Police Battalion in Auburn, in Central New York, and the 174th Attack Wing, also joined the task force on Sunday to bring additional personnel to support local authorities.

    The primary concern as the final snow fell was structural integrity of buildings, according to the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control. The state provided a six-person collapse response team to Erie County and National Guard forces partnered with the team to help make assessments in trailer parks.

    “There’re 49 mobile home parks within the vicinity of the disaster area, our emergency area. All of them are being checked on personally because there's a vulnerability,” Hochul said. “You talk about roof collapses, these are not strong roofs, and so we want to make sure that people who hear a single sound know to leave the vicinity immediately.”

    The National Guard teams helped inspect nine trailer parks on November 19, Barney said.

    National Guard personnel were also at work clearing snow from fire hydrants to ensure access for local fire departments.

    The experience Soldiers and Airmen gained serving as part of the state’s COVID-19 response made the mobilization process more efficient, Barney said.

    “The COVID experience in the past year helped us immensely because we could utilize personnel that understood the (mobilization) processes,” Barney said. “Generally, in civil support operations, the logistics and administrative procedures can cause significant issues with Soldier care.”

    Getting Airmen and Soldiers in before the storm hit also made the response more effective, Barney add. They were in place and ready to go as requests came in, he said.

    The storm even forced the local football team to move its scheduled home game in Orchard Park, N.Y., where 80 inches of snow forced the closing of the Buffalo Bills’ Highmark Stadium.

    Instead of playing the Cleveland Browns at their home field, the Bills defeated them 31-23 in Detroit instead.

    Even as limited commercial traffic reopened by the end of the weekend, recovery efforts across the Erie County and Buffalo are expected to continue this week.

    "This is an historic storm, and I want to thank everyone in storm impacted areas for their patience and compliance with local travel ordinances,” Hochul said. “While we continue our recovery efforts, I encourage everyone to continue to look after one another, stay home, and check in on loved ones and neighbors so that we all come out of this safely."



    Date Taken: 11.21.2022
    Date Posted: 11.21.2022 10:00
    Story ID: 433602
    Location: BUFFALO, NY, US

    Web Views: 248
    Downloads: 1