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Shoveling Off To Buffalo Promises A Snowy Holiday Challenge


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Buffalo is still digging out from that walloping snowfall and for Western New Yorkers who were trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving, shuffling off to Buffalo - forgive me - has never been so difficult. North County Public Radio's David Sommerstein reports.

DAVID SOMMERSTEIN, BYLINE: Paige Gannon is a freshman at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. It's about four-and-a-half hours and not one, but two lake-effect snow areas from her home in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg. It's Thanksgiving break already so Gannon's at the bookstore buying a Lilly Pulitzer day planner as a gift for her sister.

PAIGE GANNON: She's preppy and wants that stuff so...

SOMMERSTEIN: It turns out Gannon's not going home because her house is buried up to the top of the doorway in snow. Her parents called and said take the train to your aunt and uncle's in Connecticut. We'll meet you there for Thanksgiving.

GANNON: They were definitely concerned that I was coming back home and then going to get stuck on the highway. I'm sad about it, but I mean, I'll see them soon and hopefully the snow will clear up.

SOMMERSTEIN: Hundreds of drivers did get stuck on the highways as three straight days of snow pummeled Buffalo. The New York State Thruway was closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania line, leaving people no easy way to get into Buffalo.

Brothers Phil and Joe Duggan are scraping off their 2002 Chevy Malibu, a mere four inches of snow here in Northeastern New York.

PHIL DUGGAN: We don't think the drive will be that bad. My car's kind of a piece of junk, but (laughter).

SOMMERSTEIN: Duggan says they'll take side roads if they have to get home to their grandparents for Thanksgiving.

JOE DUGGAN: Phil and his brother Joe are probably two of the smartest young men you'll ever meet. If it's not wise to do it, they won't do it.

SOMMERSTEIN: Grandfather Jim Duggan has eight feet of snow piled up outside his home in Hamburg. He says his sons and grandkids, who live down the block, are plowing the driveway and bringing food from the store.

J. DUGGAN: We're well taken care of, but I pity people who are elderly who have no one close by to look in on them.

SOMMERSTEIN: State troopers helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials are pushing for a federal disaster area declaration and Cuomo urged residents to make good on Buffalo's reputation as the City of Good Neighbors.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: This is an opportunity to be a good neighbor. Check on people on your block to make sure they have everything. You'll have people who'll have been homebound for three, four, five days.

SOMMERSTEIN: Cuomo nixed the idea of 80,000 football fans driving to the Buffalo Bills snow-blanketed stadium. Sunday's game against the New York Jets was moved to Monday in Detroit. People trying to get in and out of Buffalo by air are having better luck now. Close to half of the flights at the Buffalo Niagara Airport were canceled earlier this week. St. Lawrence University student Phil Duggan says assuming his drive across snowy upstate New York goes OK, he'll be ready to pitch in at his grandfather's place, shovel in hand.

P. DUGGAN: I told him like, the second we get back and the second the roads are good we're going to get down and help them out and make sure that everything's good.

SOMMERSTEIN: The shoveling won't be easy. Warmer weather will make for heavy wet snow. Dozens of people have already been evacuated because their roofs buckled under the weight.

For NPR News I'm David Sommerstein in Canton, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Sommerstein, a contributor from North Country Public Radio (NCPR), has covered the St. Lawrence Valley, Thousand Islands, Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill regions since 2000. Sommerstein has reported extensively on agriculture in New York State, Fort Drum’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lives of undocumented Latino immigrants on area dairy farms. He’s won numerous national and regional awards for his reporting from the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He's regularly featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Only a Game, and PRI’s The World.