This weekend’s snowstorm comes from Lake Erie on Snowvember’s eighth anniversary, but there’s a big difference between that storm and this one.
Instead of clogging the freeways to get to work or missing work altogether, tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers can simply zoom in from home.
“It’s an advantage we know now,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “Some employers’ argument that ‘Well, I have to get my employees there’ may not cut the mustard the way it did. Because we know that the vast majority of those who work in service industries don’t need to be in the office at all. They can work from home. »
The first storm of the winter season started Thursday evening and will come into full attack late Friday, until early Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service predicts up to two feet of snow.
While many local residents have often-repeated stories of where they were stuck during legendary Buffalo snowstorms, like the 1977 blizzard or Snowvember, working remotely is changing a lot.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many local businesses invested in tools to allow their employees to work from home. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s annual survey found that 70% of its members have some form of permanent hybrid work plan.
“So I think it will be different for those companies,” said BNP Chairman and CEO Dottie Gallagher. “But, of course, we have a lot of members who work in manufacturing and healthcare who can’t work remotely.”
So having enough plow drivers to keep streets and roads open remains a priority. New York Department of Transportation public information officer Susan Surdej said the state will have 480 personnel and about 200 plows deployed for the storm.
State pay and benefits mean job slots for drivers are filled, and part-time employees will also come on board to give regular crews a break.
“We have snowblowers. We have chargers. We have graders. We have equipment ready. Our salt granaries are well stocked,” she said.
In Niagara County, the public works department is trying something new: dividing the plows into two groups.
“Each team is on a week, a week off,” Deputy Roads Commissioner Dean Lapp said. “So we have two teams alternating. What it does is streamline the response time to any call or weather event.
Lapp says his plow crews know the many winter problems in the very rural county and know how to handle them. Additionally, many of the more important roads are plowed by state crews.
Erie County DPW Commissioner Bill Geary said his staff were also ready for the winter onslaught. He has five new plow trucks, a quarter million dollars each, to be there, with a contest to name all the plows.
“So we are good. But we have other resources within the department to bring in mechanics, if we need them, or driving supervisors,” Geary said. “But we should have more than enough staff available for that.”
On a truly local level, retired state trooper and mayor of Dunkirk, Wilfred Rosas, said his plows are ready for the storms rolling in from the lake, but the city must balance its needs with the needs of citizens. .
“Some people have pensions that are not so accommodating, financially,” he said. “So when we talk about fixed income, we mean it. Every dollar counts and with rising gas prices and rising natural gas prices, all utility bills are going up.
For those who are even more fit, two Code Blue refuges are already open.
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