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Local first responders lauded for their service, during the polar vortex

WINTRY CONDITIONS — It was slow going early last week, as snow, low temperatures and high winds made roads treacherous throughout Western New York, but plow drivers (like the one pictured above) worked around the clock, to clear the streets. Photos by Jeffrey Barnes.
EVANS — The Blizzard of 2014, a polar vortex, impacted most parts of Erie County, including the town of Evans, causing local employees to band together and spring into action, something the town board members said they are very grateful for.

Supervisor Keith Dash said that he was humbled by the response of the town’s police, highway, emergency and disaster teams, as well as the town residents themselves.

“I am immensely pleased, honored and humbled to recognize Police Chief Ernie Masullo, Highway Superintendant Ed Michalski and the guys of the highway department, Bill Hamm and Guy Canonico, the emergency and disaster coordinators for the town,” Dash said.

“They really responded for the good of all residents, when this polar vortex descended upon the town of Evans,” he added. “The chief kept me in the loop every step of the way, including travel bans, travel advisories and then, ultimately, a local state of emergency.”

Speaking to the local residents, Dash thanked everyone for heeding town warnings. “I spoke with a few officers, who were surprised at how many residents ... stayed off the streets,” he said. “The roads in the town of Evans were impeccable, and that is thanks to the hard work of everybody involved, during this emergency, as well as the town of Evans residents. Because of their assistance, we were able to evacuate, hunker down and allow this to pass without any loss of life or any serious injuries or accidents.”

Dash also expressed his gratitude toward the members of the town’s volunteer firefighter company, who he said went above and beyond.

“I would also like to thank all of the volunteer firemen at Lake Erie Beach, Evans Center, Highland and North Evans, who opened their doors and established warming stations when we had sub-zero wind chills,” he said. “I know North Evans in particular had semi-truck drivers [who] went off the road along Route 20, as well as eight residents from a group home stranded on a trip and, for a whole day, they took care of them.

“So, again, on behalf of the town board, police, highway, emergency coordinators, residents, fire companies and all town employees, I offer my heartfelt thank you.”

Councilman Paul Cooper said, “I know how bad the conditions were, especially on Monday night when I was coming home from the city, a commute that took nearly five hours to get home to Angola. It was treacherous and dangerous, but the police were out there and they did their jobs.

“Kudos to our highway department and our DPW, on getting our roads clear as quickly as they did. This is the type of weather where we have water main breaks and, again, our DPW; our guys are out there. Nobody wants to be in a pit hip-deep in water when it’s below zero, but these guys do it. Without them, where would we be?”

Cooper said that he was impressed “with North Evans and Evans Center in particular, who ... took stranded motorists in. There were a lot of people who were off the road and they took them in and the ladies’ auxiliaries and the men’s auxiliaries, plus the firefighters and EMTs, really opened their arms.”

IN SNOW AND RAIN — United States Postal Service workers stayed true to the company’s unofficial motto during the recent blizzard, although the USPS told its employees to be outdoors only as much as they could physically handle.
He noted that the service shown throughout the blizzard said a lot for the town and “speaks to the people we have in our volunteer core. I’m really proud of everyone in emergency services and all of our town employees.”

The recent storm was the first blizzard to hit this area in more than 20 years. The blizzard caused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency for Western New York, with travel advisories issued for Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties; unnecessary travel was banned, during the storm.

Erie County was blanketed with snow; Orchard Park received 22 inches and the city of Buffalo totaled 17.6 inches. The blizzard also brought on record low temperatures, including wind chills that dropped to the range of 20 – 30 degrees below zero.

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