Tonawanda News

July 24, 2013

Twin Cities largely recovered from severe weekend weather

By Michael Regan michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Life is returning to normal in the Twin Cities after a freak storm passed through the region Friday, knocking out power to thousands of homes, causing severe flooding, backed-up sewers and littering the area with downed trees and limbs. 

North Tonawanda, which received 4.3 inches of rain in a matter of hours, was by far the harder hit of the two municipalities. Approximately 1,600 homes lost power when a transforming in Wheatfield that feeds the Lumber City was struck by lighting late Friday, Mayor Rob Ortt said.

Brad Rowles, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, said of the 2,800 homes that lost power in total, largely in the Wurlitzer Park neighborhood and in the city’s northern region, all are now back on track, as his crews continue collecting debris throughout the week. 

Dozens of DPW workers were called in late Saturday to contend with a flux of issues from malfunctioning traffic signals to streets completely blocked by fallen trees, especially parts of Nash Road. Flooded-out roads and the lack of light, along with severe rains and lightning, made for arduous terrain. 

Ortt, who put emergency facilities in place for city residents on Saturday morning before closing them up after no one showed, said the city is investigating a more permanent solution to inclement weather. 

“I had a meeting with the city engineer and the DPW superintendent this morning,” he said Tuesday. “We are definitely looking at improvements. You always try to learn from these things. Bad stuff happens. Hopefully residents measure you on how you respond to it and not that the event occurred to begin with. You really have no control over Mother Nature.” 

In Erie County, Tonawanda City Mayor Ron Pilozzi said 637 homes lost power overnight though most were restored before dawn.

The town and city received about 2.3 inches of rain between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., though the greatest concern was in the Tonawanda Towers, with 11 floors of apartments losing power and a malfunctioning generator raising concerns over the occupants made up mostly of seniors and those with physical challenges. 

“We got through it in a lot better shape some other communities,” he said. “For some reason we got less rain. But the winds were still difficult.” 

The region at large also saw winds up to 66 mph, further complicating emergency response efforts in Niagara and Erie counties. Roughly 17,000 people lost power Friday night and Saturday in Niagara County, with 28,000 losing power in Western New York as a whole. All were up and running again by Sunday night, according to National Grid. 

Rowles said DPW headquarters lost its phone capabilities for three hours on Friday before fielding approximately 100 calls from residents in distress. He also likened the effects of the storm to 2006, with dozens of DPW employees directing traffic, clearing sewers and responding to calls throughout the evening and into the weekend.

“It was like a mini October storm,” he said. “The good news is that as of Tuesday many issues were already back to normal. We’re going to attack it the rest of this week. I’d like to tell residents to get your damaged items and debris out to the curb. We’re going to be there.”