By Mark Scheer and Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — It wasn't a blizzard like the one predicted to hit Boston and other parts of the northeast coast, but the steady flow of snow that fell on Niagara Falls and surrounding areas certainly made for less than ideal conditions throughout the day Friday.
As the major winter storm dubbed "Nemo" by the Weather Channel arrived in the east, the Falls and other parts of Niagara County dealt with a heavy, persistent snowfall that started before sunrise and lasted through the day.
"Unfortunately, here we are again. It's a weekend again and we've got snow again," said Niagara Falls Department of Public Works Director Dave Kinney whose road crews have already been busier this year than they were all of 2012.
Kinney said he saw several accidents on his way to a morning radio talk show where he took to the airwaves at around 9 a.m. to encourage drivers to be patient, take it slow and give his plow drivers room to maneuver.
Falls police say they took steps to deal with the heavy snowfall by making use of all of the department's SUVs. The heavy-duty, four wheel drive vehicles are assigned to the Traffic Division, but those that are not being used by Traffic officers have been give to patrol officers to make sure they can navigate side streets and alleys.
"We need to be able to get around and we'll do whatever we have to," Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said.
DalPorto said by late afternoon there had been no major accidents or other problems created by the storm.
City firefighters also reported no significant storm related events.
Advice on being cautious wasn't enough to prevent motorists from running off the roads or into each other as they contended with slick conditions brought on by the heavy snow. Numerous motor vehicle accidents were reported throughout the day, which started with an accident involving a tractor trailer on the north Grand Island Bridge. The multi-car accident created a traffic snarl that blocked all northbound lanes to the Falls for about an hour. State police reported two minor injuries from the accident.
For Kinney and his crews, it was business as usual whenever the snow falls. He said the rapid pace of the white stuff made it difficult for plow drivers to keep up, which is why the bulk of the focus during the day Friday remained on keeping main arteries like Niagara Falls and Hyde Park boulevards as clear as possible.
"We're maintaining the mains and that's pretty much what I'm concentrating on now. I think we've kept up on that," Kinney said during an interview early Friday afternoon.
The Niagara Falls School District announced cancellation of all afternoon and evening activities, except the latchkey program, early Friday afternoon. District officials did not call off regularly scheduled classroom activities Friday. In a statement, Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said the district felt it was appropriate to proceed with classes despite weather reports.
“We determined the conditions were clear enough for us to have a regular school day," the statement read. "If a parent ever decides they do not agree with the district, they are entitled to keep their children home."
Kinney said he planned to have a full contingent of plow drivers on the roads throughout the evening and into early Saturday and said, based on weather reports that were predicting an end to the snow by today, he was planning to turn the concentration from the main roads to inner city and LaSalle secondary streets throughout the day.
"We'll just continue to work on it," Kinney said. "I have around the clock shifts."
Mayor Paul Dyster said efforts were also being made to address secondary streets as well.
A blitz of residential side streets was being scheduled for overnight and during the day on Saturday.
"The heavy snows are forecast to taper off in the early evening), which means the mains will stay clear without constant attention," Dyster said. "That allows us to shift resources increasingly to secondary streets and residential side streets. We hope to have things substantially cleaned up by (Saturday) evening."
Dyster also reminded residents to shovel sidewalks on their property.
"It is very important, especially overnight, that residents observe alternate parking regulations," the mayor said. "This makes it possible for us to get in and plow without cars blocking the way."