IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Lessons from the Buffalo Blizzard

Snow is a disaster that can be everywhere at once.

The snow and wind in Buffalo, N.Y., was exceptionally bad. Called their worst storm ever!

A few observations from that event and warnings for others who have a big snowstorm:

  • A widespread snowstorm impacts everybody and it is not something concentrated in just one single area like a flood or fire. Thus, there are demands from everyone when it comes to snow.
  • You cannot bluff your way out of snow response. People can directly observe “how you are doing as a government,” and generally it depends on if they see a snowplow on their street.
  • Even if you warn people, not everyone will get the message. Unfortunatel,y in our “weather attuned” world there are many storms that are hyped and do not pan out. Crying wolf gets people to tune out disaster warnings even when they are really, really bad. Some people in Buffalo did not think they got sufficient warning.
  • Once again, it was the elderly, minorities and those with fewer economic resources who suffered the most. They don’t have weeks of groceries in the house. Their homes are not weather-proof, the furnace is old, etc. Stress the home and you stress the family that lives there. The latest count was 57 deaths; some occurred as people tried to leave their homes and did not make it to safety after doing so.
  • The president declared an emergency — not a disaster. Likely it will free up money to help pay for the snow removal that I’m sure continues as I write this blog post.

Of any disaster that has caused politicians to be un-elected and or emergency mangers to be shown the door, it has been snowstorms, in my unofficial tracking of such things. Remember: Snow equals danger!
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.