With Hurricane Sandy lashing the Eastern seaboard and the memory of a surprise October storm embedded in the collective conscience of residents here in Western New York, government officials, utility companies and first responders were ready for the worst Monday.
Forecasters predicted heavy rain, flooding and wind gusts of up to 65 mph into Tuesday afternoon.
In the end, however, the storm had little effect on the region and the predictions turned out to be subdued, though authorities in New York City and other coastal cities continue to assess one of the most destructive natural disasters in a generation — one Western New Yorkers dodged.
Yet in the Tonawandas, despite the fact that residents cleared supermarket shelves, most area schools closed and emergency teams were in place, officials throughout Erie and Niagara counties reported limited damage Tuesday outside of the largely rural Lake Ontario shoreline.
National Grid reported roughly 10,000 homes in Western New York lost power, though in the Tonawandas and portions of Niagara County that number was in the hundreds. All had service returned Tuesday.
“It was a lot less than we expected,” said Steve Brady, a spokesperson with the company. “We prepared for much more.”
North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham, who pulled an all-nighter in North Tonawanda’s emergency headquarters, said there were minor incidents of downed trees along Oliver Street, roughly 20 homes without power and no flooding problems in the city.
“It was pretty quiet, nothing outrageous,” he said. “We had a good grip on things. Emergency crews were on the same page and we waited to see what played out. Luckily nothing did.”
Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi called the storm “basically a non-event” and credited the 2006 October surprise storm for the city’s views on emergency preparations.
“We’ve paid a lot of attention to trimming trees and making sure we limit any damage from storms such as this,” he said.
Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana had little to report other than three downed trees and one street that has a brief period of flooding because of sewer drain blocked by leaves.
“Fortunately we had very little,” he said.
Brad Rowles, supervisor of the North Tonawanda Department of Public Works, said knowing the storm was coming gave the city time to prepare for what was predicted to be up to four inches of rain and drastically higher winds.
That didn’t happen, perhaps in part because of drought conditions throughout the summer that kept the water table low in the Erie Canal, according to Rowles.
“It was a fraction of what we thought we’d be dealing with,” he said. “We met with the fire and police chiefs, the mayor, we had operations ready to go if necessary. It’s a team effort and we all worked together. This was a fairly major event but it didn’t seem to be (here).”
Reporter Jessica Bagley contributed to this report.
Jessica Bagley contributed reporting.