NYU To Review Buffalo’s Blizzard Response After Storm Leaves 39 Dead

NYU To Review Buffalo's Blizzard Response After Storm Leaves 39 Dead

Bisons are worried about flooding when the temperature rises after the snowfall

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After a tornado killed 39 people in New York's Erie County, Buffalo Mayor Brian Brown said NYU at Buffalo will issue an "action report" on the county's response to the storm.

Brown said NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Hurricane Preparedness, Response and Recovery will provide feedback on Buffalo to model best practices for other major cities.

"The City of Buffalo is committed to learning from this storm and making additional improvements as we respond to severe winter weather in the future," Brown wrote in a statement.

Excavators dump snow east of Buffalo, New York on December 29, 2022. ©Joed Viera/AFP via Getty Images An excavator clears the snow east of Buffalo, New York, December 29, 2022. MORE: Buffalo's deadly tornadoes by the numbers: What made this storm historic.

At least 39 people were killed as the deadly storm hit the region, forcing residents off the streets for nearly a week and shutting down emergency services for residents during the storm.

Erie County Executive Mark S. "There is no guarantee that they will be able to respond immediately to a life-threatening emergency," Polonkartz said at a Dec. 24 news conference, adding that there will be no situation in the worst-hit areas. . . Emergency in all services. At press time, two-thirds of the rescue vehicles were stuck in the snow.

"No one will come."

When the New York National Guard, including military police, moved to Buffalo to rebuild, many residents had to work harder for themselves and their communities.

"No one wants to come," said Tyrone Knight of Buffalo, describing how he's stuck on Niagara Falls Boulevard. "I called the police several times, the police told me I was on a waiting list and they didn't see anyone outside."

Another resident, Eddie Porter, said he had been on the street for 28 hours. Calls to the police went unanswered, he said. He stated that he called the police on December 23rd and finally answered on December 29th.

"Do you ever feel like you're going to die and there's nothing you can do about it?"

“I guess that's how it ends. Have you ever thought you were going to die and there was nothing you could do about it?” Porter asked in an emotional interview with ABC News.

Instead of being rescued by the police, Porter was rescued by local resident William Cless, who spent days rescuing about fifty residents on his snowmobile.

Residents admire the view of snow piles in front of Grand Central Station on December 29, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. ©Joed Viera/AFP via Getty Images Residents admire a giant snow slide in front of Grand Central Station in Buffalo, New York, December 29, 2022.

"I don't know what I would have done without him," Porter said.

In an interview with ABC News, Kles said she helped neighbors connect with shelters, move cats and dogs, deliver supplies and give a person a bath after he was stuck in his car for 17 hours. Whether in person, on social media or on the phone with police, Claes understands the needs of the community and offers help at home, he says.

"You know, there were so many calls that 911 service was suspended, there were so many helpless people who didn't know when they were going to get help," Kles said.

Claes added that they spoke with Buffalo police after they were unable to get to the scene safely by car.

"It was like a search and rescue," he said. "Buffalo police intervened because they couldn't get out."

In a Dec. 24 press release, Polonkartz cited the lack of vehicular mobility as a problem, as counties, cities and states lack snowmobiles and rely on regular ambulances and state National Guard Hummers.

Knight said she was eventually rescued by a friend and then began working with friends and family to coordinate rescue efforts in the absence of emergency services.

"We set out to help as many people as possible in the city of Buffalo," Knight said. "We will post our number so if anyone is stuck or without power or needs emergency help, they can call us if they need help that they don't get from the city of Buffalo."

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Knight estimates he received hundreds of calls based on the highest emergency priority.

Reflecting on their experience with the storm, Klis, Knight and Porter report problems with the city's response.

"We didn't see any medical personnel, police, firefighters, emergency response teams," Kless said. "They actually didn't come out until the next day when the storm hit and everything was dead."

Porter added that he is frustrated with the lack of emergency response in some communities in Buffalo because he believes the city is "dropping the ball" on the East Side, a predominantly African-American area where tornadoes are most common.

"Let's be clear: That's one of the reasons why this is so sad." There are the porters.

A front-end loader unloads snow onto a truck on a residential street in Buffalo, New York, December 29, 2022. © Carolyn Thompson/AP A wheel loader unloads snow onto a truck on a residential street in Buffalo, New York, Dec. 29, 2022.

Knight said not only does Buffalo need to be better prepared, but he thinks the city can save lives if they work together.

"They knew everything happened a few days ago, they were warned and they knew how strong the storm was going to be," he said. "They need to be staffed appropriately."

At one point, Polonkartz publicly condemned Buffalo for its "shameful" response before apologizing for his remarks.

“Storm, storm, storm, storm, unfortunately this town was the last to open. And it's not important," he said. "It's embarrassing, to be honest," he added, adding that Erie County takes over a third of the city's operations.

Residents said they were regretting the disaster caused by the storm, the unprecedented death toll and what could have been done if anyone was blamed.

"A lot of this is preventable when it comes to the victim," Knight said.

Alex Fall, Will McDuffie and Brian Hartman of ABC News contributed to this report.

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