Me on CNN, December 28, 2001

Me on CNN, December 27, 2001

In the interest of full disclosure, I love Lake Effect Snow.  It is the most unpredictable of snow storms hitting one area with 3″ an hour blizzard like conditions while the sun shines 10 miles away.   My love of Lake Effect was born in Buffalo where I lived for three years prior to moving to Cleveland (a move which was the result of Lake Effect snow – more on that in part two.) In the three years I was in Buffalo I experienced three of their five biggest snowfalls of all time, two of which occurred during Christmas week of 2001 when we had 7-feet of snow in five days. 

When Cleveland gets Lake Effect Snow, the winds tend to be out of the NNW so the moisture they pick up is limited.  When Buffalo gets hammered it’s because the winds are out of the SW.  That means those winds travel the length of the lake, all 250-miles of it and when they hit Buffalo watch out.

November 20, 2000

Buffalo November 20, 2000

NOVEMBER 20, 2000:

The first biggie was November 20, 2000.  It was a Monday and it just snowed about 10″ the day before.  The forecasters were calling for additional Lake Effect but nothing major.   Around 11 am. the winds set up out of the SW and the snow started falling and falling hard at about 3″ an hour.  My wife and I were done work at WKBW-TV after the noon show at 12:30.   We were lucky, we were able to navigate the quickly snow filling roads on the 2.5 mile trip home.   We slid into a spot across the street and went into our apartment thinking this can’t last.  It did.  

Because it caught everyone off guard the schools didn’t let out early.  So at 2:30 the loaded school buses hit the street at the same time the city and county governments shut down and just about every business let their employees go.  All of a sudden the streets were gridlocked,  the plows couldn’t get anywhere, the cars couldn’t and the buses couldn’t.  Bottomline where you were at 4 in the afternoon is where you would be at 4 the next morning.buffalosnow2  

That meant there were school kids stranded on buses throughout the city.  They ended up spending the night at whatever Hospital, Church, Fire Station or fast food restaurant they were near.

What made it so neat when it got dark was the thunder and lightning that accompanied the snow.  After it got dark at 5 the lightning would reflect off the falling snow looking like the world’s largest flashbulb.  The snow stopped around 6:30  p.m. but by this time the damage was done and the plows were stuck with the cars many of which now sat abandoned. 

I anchored the morning show at WKBW-TV and in order to get to work at 3 a.m.  I had to walk the 2.5 miles down Delaware Avenue, a four lane road lined with cars.  The atmosphere was one I’ll never forget, those who stayed with their cars bought every ounce of beer they could find and made a party of it.  I was offered the equivalent of a six pack by the time I made it to work.  (I didn’t take any – at least that’s the story I’m sticking with.)


Delaware Avenue, these were the cars I walked around going to and from work that day.

The city remained shut down all of Tuesday.  When I walked home along Delaware Avenue the tow trucks were still removing the cars but they could only go so fast.  I got home to dig out my car.  As I rounded the corner it dawned on me it was towed because it wasn’t there.  As I got closer though I saw the rear view mirror sticking out of the white, crap it was plowed under.

The state of emergency was lifted on Wednesday morning which was also the day before Thanksgiving.  The supermarkets were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life and likely will never see again.  People looking to not only restock after the storm but get everything they needed for Thanksgiving the next day.

What made it awesome was the way people came together, opened up their houses and went out of their way to help each other out.


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