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Buffalo Digs Out After Record Snowfall

Residents were digging out and cleaning up Saturday after a record-breaking early snowstorm walloped the Buffalo area, leaving thousands without power and killing three people.

Nearly 2 feet of snow fell in a fury of thunder and lightning Thursday night and early Friday in Buffalo's two snowiest October days since the National Weather Service began keeping track 137 years ago.

The heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs all over western New York, leaving some 341,000 homes and businesses without power.

"Our street looked like it was hit by a hurricane. It looks like the apocalypse. It's unreal," said Buffalo resident Matthew Colken. "One-hundred-year-old trees are down."

National Grid, which reported 237,000 customers without electricity at 6 a.m., worked through the night but many customers were expected to be without power through next week and into the following weekend, spokesman Steve Brady said. A major problem was getting crews on the road, he said.

"Our people are getting stuck in the driveway here," Brady said. "Many of the roads are, if not impassible, near impassible."

New York State Electric & Gas reported an additional 104,000 without power in the region as of 6 a.m.

The companies warned people to stay away from downed power lines.

Erie County authorities said two people, including an off-duty state trooper, died in traffic accidents, and one person died after being hit by a falling tree limb while shoveling snow.

Gov. George Pataki asked President Bush to declare a federal emergency in Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans Counties. If the request is granted, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide reimbursement to local and state agencies for 75 percent of the total eligible costs for snow and debris removal.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton canceled a trip to Nevada so she could visit the area Saturday.

On Thursday, 8.6 inches of snow fell — the snowiest October day in Buffalo in the weather service's history. The record lasted for all of one day, as a foot of snow fell early Friday. The old record was 6 inches, set on Oct. 31, 1917.

The snow began melting Friday as bright sunshine emerged and temperatures warmed into the 40s. But the wind continued to howl, raising fears more trees would topple.

"My yard looks like pick-up sticks with the trees," said Rep. Thomas Reynolds, a Republican congressman from suburban Clarence.

Schoolchildren who began the week with a summerlike Columbus Day holiday ended it with a snow day.

"It's pretty cool because we get to build snow forts," said 10-year-old Christopher Platek. "We get to bury ourselves in the snow."

The storm buried pumpkins and apples just before a busy picking weekend, but the snow is not expected to cause damage, New York Farm Bureau spokesman Peter Gregg said.

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