In Buffalo, First Responders Had to Save Fellow First Responders

'When the rescuers have to be rescued, I'm not certain what else we could have done,' official says
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2022 2:55 PM CST
In Buffalo, First Responders Had to Save Fellow First Responders
Snow from this weekends blizzard covers downtown Buffalo on Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. The blizzard roared through western New York Friday and Saturday, stranding motorists, knocking out power, and preventing emergency crews from reaching residents in frigid homes and stuck cars.   (Twitter page of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul via AP)

The 2022 holiday season will be remembered throughout much of the US for a massive storm and Arctic blast, but Buffalo may have been hit hardest of all. According to the New York Times, conditions there were so bad over the weekend that rescuers needed rescuing, not to mention thousands of civilians trapped in cars and freezing homes. In a news conference, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz described how a specialized team was used to save stranded police, EMTs, and firefighters. "When the rescuers have to be rescued, I'm not certain what else we could have done," Poloncarz said. As of Monday, the death toll around Buffalo was at least 27 and expected to rise.

County officials put out calls for civil servants and health care workers to relieve exhausted colleagues, but road conditions often made that impossible. Line crews struggled to restore power, in part because many substations were frozen solid and required defrosting. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called it an "epic, once-in-a-lifetime storm" and the "most devastating" in Buffalo's history, per ABC7. State police alone were involved in over 500 rescues as of Sunday; along the way they delivered a baby and saved a man with 4% power left on his mechanical heart. Per the Buffalo News, snowmobiles and ATVs—some contributed by civilians—proved vital for saving lives.

Other stories of heroism emerged Monday. The New York Times reported on a tow truck driver helping an elderly woman deliver lifesaving insulin to her husband. Per CNN, a father trapped in a minivan with his terrified family recalled how a firefighter assured him, "Don't worry, man, I promise we won't leave you." First, however, he had to help someone suffering a panic attack in a nearby tunnel, where dozens of cars were stranded. In a "by the numbers" piece, the Washington Post reports that the storm affected 200 million Americans and set numerous temperature and wind records across the country. Buffalo endured more than 37 hours of continuous blizzard conditions. (Read more Buffalo stories.)

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