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Should you believe city government is making all the right choices: Crews dump debris at the corner of South Park and Abby - a former Superfund site where environmental remediation is still ongoing.
(photo: Geoff Kelly)
A firefighter checks the outside of the building for "hot spots" with a thermal imaging camera (right), while the owner of the building (left) uses his cell phone to secure a shelter for the now homeless animals.
(photo: Daniel Kirchberger (
This tree in Williamsville was coming right out of the ground, while another large section split off, blocking the street.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
Crews work around the clock trying to restore power to hundreds of thousands left in the dark.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
Joe Cannizzarro piles branches from massive trees in his yard, which pulled down power and telephone lines. The mountain of branches measured over six feet.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
Some electrical poles snapped in half.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
A fire broke out at the Dog Days of Buffalo dog training facility on Amherst Street Thursday night. Most of the dogs were rescued from the flames; others, unfortunately, escaped into the surrounding neighborhood.
(photo: Daniel Kirchberger (

Who knows who coined the term Arborgeddon? At Artvoice we heard it first—and stole it—from community activist and would-be Buffalo mayor Kevin P. Gaughan, who heard to from a friend (who heard it from a friend, who…). Buffalo Rising’s Newell Nussbaumer was first to the Web with the name, with a Tuesday morning post in which he explained that the site, like so many city businesses, had been knocked offline by the storm.

It’s not a bad name: lighthearted, easy to remember, underlining the tremendous damage to the city’s urban forest. (Maybe too lighthearted; at least 13 people have died as a result of the storm.) In any case, here’s a better joke, maybe the best I’ve heard about last week’s freak snowstorm—and it only took 24 hours to be posted on Buffalo’s Craig’s List:

tree limbs, branches, other debris

Reply to:

Date: 2006-10-13, 10:47PM EDT


Branches, logs…entire trees!

Yours to haul away!

First come, first served.

Another good one, though more earnest: A guy is trying to give away his 1994 Dodge van, whose transmission started slipping on a road trip to Indiana. The owner left the car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and now his mechanic wants $500 to dig it out of its snowbank. “Wal-Mart wants it out of their lot…I want it out of my life,” wrote the owner, who had continued on to Indiana. “Go take it away; the keys are in the ignition.”

In the weeks to come, we’ll sort out some of the storm’s long-term impacts and evaluate the government’s performance. For now, here is a photographic scrapbook of the storm and its aftermatrh, with some observations by environmentalist Jay Burney and UB professor Bruce Jackson.

geoff kelly

The Politicians and the Cameras

After the local stations came back on sometime Friday morning, the politicians couldn’t spend enough time before the newscameras talking about something for which, finally, they had no responsibility and couldn’t be held accountable. Most didn’t have much to say (other than that they’re making sure everything that can be done by someone else is being done by someone else and it sure was a bad storm), but they said it over and over again and seemed really sincere.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown had the most camera face time, but Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds doubled up by being on camera during his own statements and hovering over Brown’s shoulder for many of Brown’s. When he moved off, Democrat Congressman Brian Higgins did the same thing, either with Brown or with Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

Overall, the politicians seemed to hover between deep-serious and pre-orgasmic. Reynolds, in deep trouble because he’s been challenged by a businessman running on the Democrat line who would in any other election be a Republican and because he’s tarnished by his support of the Iraq war (unpopular around here) and his support for Mark Foley (even more unpopular around here), was on constantly on Friday and much of Saturday. He was available for news stories, appearances at community centers, etc. This is a guy hardly anybody local ever saw before, unless they had a checkbook in hand; now he’s omnipresent. He keeps saying, “Last night I talked to the FEMA director…”

It was terrific for all of them, not just the troubled Reynolds. Byron Brown didn’t have to talk about how he sold the city out a few days earlier on the Seneca casino issue, Brian Higgins didn’t have to talk about why he is George Bush’s favorite Democrat war-lover and why he was one of the few Democrats to vote to weaken ordinary Constitutional safeguards and back out of the Geneva Conventions. Governor George Pataki didn’t have to talk about anything other than the weather and a state of emergency he hopes the federal government will pay for. For politicians on the way out or in embarrassing positions, it rarely gets any better than that.

bruce jackson

(Excerpted from a longer essay, “Buffalo’s Thundersnow,” the whole of which can be read at Jackson’s photos can be seen at

Brian Maher captured the eerie beauty of the surprise October storm as he braved the snow and falling branches to take a walk around Hoyt Lake and the Japanese Gardens beside the Buffalo Historical Society.
(photo: Brian Maher)
Blue sunny skies and almost spring-like temperatures followed the storm, revealing the destruction and quickly melting the snow. Behind the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, this tree lost more branches than it kept.
(photo: Bruce Jackson)
By 10pm in Williamsville, this fledgling tree did not stand a chance. It was torn in half by heavy wet snow. There was a strange quietness out there. All you could hear was the cracking of branches.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)

Delaware Park

I live across the street from Delaware Park. When I came home from a downtown meeting Thursday about 5:30, I noticed that in the S-curves and along my street branches were hanging low. Snow-covered trees that weren’t willows drooped as if they were willows. It had a cold beauty to it and reminded me of James Agee’s line about a moist spider-web in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: “All over Alabama, the lamps are out. Every leaf drenches the touch; the spider’s net is heavy. The roads lie there, with nothing to use them. The fields lie there, with nothing at work in them, neither man nor beast. The plow handles are wet, and the rails and the frogplates and the weeds between the ties: and not even the hurryings and hoarse sorrows of a distant train, on other roads, is heard.”

By the time I got to my driveway it stopped being pretty: The two red maples in front of my house were a third shorter than when I had left a few hours earlier and a huge oak directly across the street had lost many of its larger limbs. Branches were everywhere. By morning, the great magnolia behind my house was a trunk with a single branch. A large ash on the property line with the house to my left sheared down the middle—half of it on my neighbor’s roof, half on mine. Across the street, the park looked like a cyclone or hurricane had just bullied its way through…

About midnight I let my dog Henry out the kitchen door. Immediately there were two sharp cracks, like a rifle not far away in the woods. Henry scooted back inside. A little later I opened the front window and heard more of the crack crack crack, some close, some distant, some followed by muffled thumps. Each was a limb giving up, shearing away, falling to to the ground. All night I heard that sound like rifle fire, and the trees dying. Off and on during the evening there had been thunder, but near morning it turned into a ferocious thunderstorm. Some of the lightning hit the tall oaks across the road, as if they needed anything more to deal with. Not long before dawn, the electrical storm seemed centered on the park: there were brilliant flashes of light I could see through closed eyelids, followed immediately by enormous blasts of thunder. Henry stayed close.

On Sunday, all over town you could hear the up and down whine of chainsaws, rare in the city. By afternoon, there were neat piles of branches in front of many houses. It was a clear blue day, with only occasional tufts of cloud here and there, and the temperature is in the mid-fifties, easy weather for working outdoors.

I’m writing this Tuesday morning. The streets are mostly clear but about a quarter-million people are still without electricity; many do not have phone service and many others can’t trust their water supply. Most of the traffic lights in my part of town aren’t working.

One of the oaks across the street has maybe 20 of its thickest limbs split away. At the top or end of each limb, a jagged six-foot spear of white wood reaches toward the sky. There are rings of rubble around most of the trees.

I’ve known some of those trees for 30 years. They say there are more than 5,000 trees in Delaware Park and that 90 percent of them have suffered some damage and that many won’t survive. It’s the same all over the city, and the towns.

bruce jackson

(Excerpted from a longer essay, “Buffalo’s Thundersnow,” the whole of which can be read at Jackson’s photos can be seen at

Trees began falling across Buffalo streets as the heavy snow started piling up.
(photo: Brian Maher)
A home in Snyder had a near miss as a tree nearly four times taller than the house itself fell over just in front of their door.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
Weary power workers make their way down Walton Ave. where almost every yard had fallen power lines. They said this was one of the worst areas they had dealt with so far.
(photo: Rose Mattrey)
A tree fell right onto this home in Buffalo.
(photo: Ruth West)
Trees began falling across Buffalo streets as the heavy snow started piling up.
(photo: Brian Maher)

Whither Buffalo's Urban Forest?

During its Golden Age Buffalo was widely known as the “City of Trees.” Some of this forest was original; some of it was planned and planted.

As a life-long tree hugger, Buffalo’s urban trees are one of the things that originally attracted me to this area. They have helped to keep me here.

The value of this forest adds to the quality of life, the economy and the ecology of our region. A tree or a forest, as a part of well designed and maintained streets and parks adds to the value of our properties. In the summer, a tree’s canopy provides cool refreshing shade in contrast to the blazing heat radiating from paved streets and parking lots. This can help keep down air conditioning costs. In the winter, a tree can provide shelter from the roaring, wild cold. When certain trees such as evergreens are near buildings, this insulation can help keep down the cost of heating.

In all seasons trees provide valuable ecological services including helping to cleanse the air and purify the water. These are quantifiable economic services. They help to provide habitat for the diversity of life that so profoundly characterize our region. This local and regional biodiversity, contributing to the health of the Great Lakes watershed, is a critical mechanism promoting the sustainability of the entire planet and those that live on it.

In recent decades, due to urban pressures—including the mass removal of the American elms 50 years ago and continuing through into the region’s recent economic and political crisis—Buffalo’s urban forest has eroded dramatically.

Today we are in the dangling arms of a catastrophic October storm that has, according to Mayor Byron Brown, damaged virtually every mature tree in the city. One has only to look outside the window to witness the level of destruction to these precious resources.

What we do next, and how we do it, will characterize our city and our neighborhoods for generations to come.

Early on in this ongoing disaster, it was announced that contractors that have cut their teeth in the tree cleanup business by “chasing hurricanes” will be coming into our community. Certainly we need help. But, these are not necessarily local contractors, and their economic incentive may focus on the removal of the forest, not its careful protection and future restoration. Certainly, when they move onto the next job, it is we who will have to live with the consequences of their work.

We need to look at this clean up from the perspective of saving and restoring as much as we can now, and not depend on a magic bullet to replant trees down the road. Let us encourage elected officials to be cautious, take advantage of this time to make moves that will ensure the best possible protection of our forest. We should take this concept into our personal lives as well. If you can save a tree, it will be more beneficial in the long and short run.

If you see what you consider to be an abuse, or an unintended consequence, report this to your local officials and the media. Talk to the contractors and your neighbors. Complain. Be the squeaky wheel. It will take efforts from every one of us to make sure that we come out of this with a chance once again someday to be a city of trees.

jay burney