Saturday, November 22, 2014

#SNOWVEMBER UPDATE: CSEA Monroe County Local 828 paying it forward for our families in Hamburg, NY

CSEA Town of Webster Highway Department workers (Monroe County Local 828) removing snow in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg, NY. photo by Joe Herbst
By Ove Overmyer

November 22, 2014-- CSEA public employees from the towns of Webster, Penfield and Perinton have been working nonstop for the past 48 hours to assist Buffalo area residents with snow removal and emergency care. We talked with Joe Herbst, Superintendent of Highways for the Town of Webster, and he says they have been getting "a hero’s welcome" in every neighborhood they visit. Go here to see photos taken today (Nov 22) by Joe Herbst.

"Residents of Hamburg were bringing us out hot food, dinners and coffee-- they were so appreciative of us being there," said Herbst. And to complicate today’s recovery efforts, the day was marked by an aggressive rainstorm that proved very difficult for the workers. State and local officials are warning residents about area flooding, possible structure collapses and over exerting themselves when shoveling the heavy, wet snow.

Town of Webster Highway Department employees Jeff Marapese and Jeff Kujawa have not slept or have seen their families for days, but were still escorting emergency personnel to area homes and hospitals late this afternoon plus working very hard on the snow removal process as well.  

Herbst says the plowing and removal is tough going, and most of the areas main roads only have one lane plus the middle “suicide” lane which is a major safety concern. He added, “There is so much snow—and there is no where to put it. The driving is still treacherous because the sight lines are non-existent because the banks of snow along the road are close to twelve feet high in some locations.”

Herbst also reports that some 25 percent of the neighborhoods in South Buffalo have not seen a plow since Wednesday. They hope to make at least one pass in every neighborhood tomorrow (Sunday Nov. 23).

The entire area is under a flood warning, which means flooding is imminent or has been reported. The National Weather Service says flood-prone areas will be inundated, but warns there will be general flooding, too.

"(We) expect 5 to 6 feet of water in some areas in a short period of time," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. The risk of flooding extends into next Tuesday. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will remain above freezing through Monday, rising steadily into the 50s on Sunday. Heavy snow threatens to collapse more roofs before it melts.

Erie County officials aren't taking any chances. They've mobilized heavy pumps and diesel pumps to suck up water and deposit it elsewhere. Swift-water rescue teams are in place, along with helicopters, should anyone get caught in the deluge of runoff waters. There is no doubt CSEA workers from all over New York State will be heeding the call for help as the drama of #snowvember continues.

Some major roads opened on Friday, like the New York State Thruway, and some local driving bans were lifted. That allowed trucks to move so food could be delivered to stores and crews could remove abandoned vehicles. Snow and vehicle removals still are major tasks ahead. Erie County crews have had to deal with clearing 1,800 lane-miles of county roads before getting to residential streets, Poloncarz said Friday.

And while NYS Governor Cuomo is thanking every elected official under the sun, plus the New York City Fire Department again, it is not an accident that he continually overlooks to recognize the hard work and dedication of the state and local government rank and file municipal workers—the very folks who are actually doing the heavy lifting. Stay tuned to the Voice Reporter for more news and information in the coming days.

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