BUFFALO, N.Y. — Roofs began to creak and collapse under the weight as another storm brought the Buffalo area’s three-day snowfall total Nov. 20 to an epic 6 feet or more.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo begged drivers “pretty, pretty please” to stay off slippery, car-clogged roads in western New York as crews struggled to dig out. Some areas got close to 2 feet of new snow by Nov. 20th’s afternoon.
Things could quickly get worse: Rain and temperatures as high as 60 were in the forecast for the weekend, raising the specter of flooding and an even heavier load on roofs, where the snow could absorb the downpours like a blanket.
More than 50 people were evacuated from several mobile home parks in suburban Cheektowaga and West Seneca. Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Timothy Roma said more than a dozen buildings and carports collapsed, as did a metal warehouse operated by a Christmas decorations company, where damage was estimated in the millions.
Homeowners and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger.
“It’s getting heavier,” said Cheektowaga resident Thomas Mudd Jr., who with his wife spent several hours shoveling 4 to 5 feet off his roof. “It’s supposed to warm up and we’re supposed to get rain on the weekend, which will make it even heavier. So I didn’t want my roof collapsing.”
National Guardsmen drove nurses to work their hospital shifts. State troopers helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. State officials assembled 463 plows, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks from across the state.
Some Buffalo-area schools were closed for the third day, burning through snow days with winter still a month away.
A stretch of the New York State Thruway through western New York remained closed with more than 300 truckers idled at truck stops and service areas, waiting for the highway to reopen.
With deliveries interrupted, some grocery stores reported running low on staples like bread and milk.
Officials also cast doubt on whether the region would recover enough for the Buffalo Bills to host the New York Jets on Nov. 23. The seats and field of the Bills’ stadium south of Buffalo were buried in snow. Many roads are impassable, and a driving ban remained in place in many communities.
“Right now, my sense is it’s impractical to do the game because it would jeopardize public safety,” the Governor said.
Even for the Buffalo area — one of the snowiest and hardiest places in America — this was one for the record books, with the three-day total close to the nearly 8 feet that the region typically gets in an entire year.
“No matter how you cut it, this event will end up in the top five for the Lake Erie area,” said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini.
Homes and businesses in the snowy Buffalo area are supposed to be able to handle about 50 pounds per square foot on their roofs, according to Mark Bajorek, a structural engineer. He said some buildings may be close to that now, with more precipitation on the way.
By Carolyn Thompson. AP writer Michael Hill and Mary Esch contributed from Albany