Since when is snow in Buffalo an emergency?

Since when is snow in Buffalo an emergency?

I’d like to know. Because as far as I know, it snows there every year.

Yep, I’m right. Buffalo gets about 93.6 inches of snow per year.

So why is it that President Bush has directed FEMA to make $5,000,000 available for cleanup.

Earth to everyone: The lowest temperature in Buffalo, according to Accuweather, is going to be above freezing for the next 9 consecutive days, including daily highs AND nightly lows.

And if you count out the one day where it will meet freezing– Tuesday, October 24– it appears as though Buffalo will be well above freezing for the next 15 days.

So let’s see–

Can FEMA and the Bush administration spend money faster than snow melts?

Someone start keeping score.


9 thoughts on “Since when is snow in Buffalo an emergency?

  1. I’d love to think that this little award isn’t timed for the November elections, but I just can’t do it.

  2. Mike,

    It’s not the snow that has created the emergency here. It’s all the trees that came crashing down and wiping out power to about 400,000 people and blocking roadways. As I write this about half of these people still don’t have power and some won’t for a week. And although the temperature has been slowly rising since Friday, the overnight temperatures have been in the mid-30′s. Add to that the flooding in some areas because of the rapid snow melt. The snow’s not the problem -it’s mostly gone, it’s the remaining debris. There are literally tens of thousands trees that have been damaged or destroyed. This debris is going to take weeks to clean up and that isn’t going to happen without some outside assistance. We pay our taxes like everyone and certainly deserve a helping hand with this (minor) disaster.

    Trust me, $5 million here is a drop in the bucket when you look at the money going into rebuilding from Katrina or that ongoing debacle in Iraq.

  3. Thanks for the comment, PolarLava!

    I wish I could agree that Buffalo deserves a helping hand with this supposed “disaster” but I just can’t. An early arrival to winter is just not a disaster. To address your points:

    The downed trees would be downed at a greater pace were this to occur at a time when the average temperature has been lower than freezing. As temperature decreases, objects that rely on moisture to provide flexibility grow more and more brittle, and more and more susceptible to breakage under stress. Were this a winter storm, the damage would be much greater. Would it be an emergency then?

    Lack of power is not a disaster. It never has been, and it never will be. The only immediate hardship caused by a power outage is at hospitals or public service locations. If those locations do not have backup power generation, then their poor decisions are their own responsibility.

    Power is a luxury– a very nice make-life-easier kind of luxury, but a luxury just the same. Lack of power is not an emergency, nor is it a disaster.

    The federal government via flood insurance automatically covers flooding for those who elected to purchase said flood insurance. The federal government is the only organization in the country that both writes flood insurance policies and is permitted to offer flood insurance policies. ALL flood insurance in the US is underwritten by the federal government, and guaranteed through the federal government. There are no private insurers who are even permitted to offer it. If the residents of Buffalo want flood insurance, they should pay for it. FEMA is not flood insurance.

    The debris may take weeks to cleanup, but it most certainly would be removed without federal assistance. If it were not, your state would fail to do its own established legal duty (see NY Executive Law § 20 which defines disasters and the local government’s role in those disasters). Heck, according to NY Executive Law § 20, it is questionable if this is even an emergency.

    I appreciate that your state pays taxes into the federal coffers but the fact is that across the board, just about every government involved here besides the federal government is running a surplus. Buffalo is projecting a $14.6 Million budget surplus for 2005-2006. Erie County is projecting a $42 Million budget surplus for 2007, and just gave $4 Million to a zoo so they could build a fake rainforest. The state of New York in 2005-2006 collected a surplus of $2.041 Billion.

    And believe me, I am acutely aware of federal spending on Katrina recovery and Iraq, likely more so than 99.9% of the general population.

    It’s OK that you feel the need to justify this. I understand that it is not fun to admit your city/county/state is trying to pass their responsibility on to the federal government, and allowing the federal government to use what you consider an emergency as a political issue.

    This is an election-year giveaway, and nothing less. Congressman Thomas Reynolds touted the FEMA dollars he’s secured as he toured the damage. That’s all anyone with a passion for politics needs to know in order to see the true emergency is that the Republicans might lose the House.

    You may wish to note that the previously untouchable Congressman Reynolds is currently trailing Davis in most polls by at least 5%, attributed directly to the Foley scandal. He now is on the hotseat, and is buying votes.

    I wish your state the best, and a pleasant 93+ more inches of snow. But I wonder– if the total snowfall is less than the 93 average inches by the amount of this early snowfall, will the federal government be getting a check?

    That $5 Million could have easily been allocated to cleanup of the Savannah River Site, a DoE nuclear repository that is intentionally leaking radioactive waste directly into the drinking water for several Georgia counties. Now *that* is an emergency.

    Snow is not.



  4. I don’t have a real issue with most of your rebuttal and completely agree that a lot of this likely is driven by Reynolds and the Republicans who are desperately trying to hold his congressional seat. I never said this wasn’t an election year giveaway. Most money the government shells out is nothing more than pork to appease those in power. In hindsight I agree, the feds probably shouldn’t be giving a handout for this (or a lot of other disasters). You clearly spend more time looking at government and the numbers than I would every be willing to do. :) But a few other points…

    1) Your explanation of the physics of tree flexibility seem correct. But a storm such as this in just a few weeks when it is colder would not result in more damage. If anything, it would be far, far less or non-existent. The problem with the early snowfall is that the leaves are still on the trees. This allows far greater amounts of this very heavy snow to collect on the trees, to the point that they collapse. Once the leaves are gone the snow largely would fall harmlessly to the ground. Otherwise there would be no trees in this area.

    2) At the most basic level, you are correct. Electricity is a luxury item. Millions around the world live without it all the time. But in our society it’s more that just a luxury, it’s an integral part of our daily lives. We wouldn’t be having this conversation without it. :) That said, I don’t own a generator, nor do intend to go buy one now like many others. I lost a lot of food from my refrigerator, but that can be replaced. And my family and I had no problems getting by without it in the short-term. I know many were flipped out about it, but I was not. Then again, my family doesn’t exactly live the short memory, addicted to TV, video games and cell phones life that most Americans do these days. How long would you be willing to live without electricity?

    3) Flood insurance is ridiculous. If the government shouldn’t be picking up stick in my neighborhood, they should be be bailing water and helping people rebuild in floodplains. I guess this train of though could be extended to areas with hurricanes and earthquakes as well. Beyond immediate medical assistance you’re on your own. Certainly would go a long way toward helping curb the national debt.

    4) Both Buffalo and Erie county (which I don’t live in) might both have projected budget surpluses, but that’s a joke. Both are currently under financial control boards because of past mismanagement and are heavily in debt. This is a comical conversation unto itself. This area is addicted to appeasing the big labor unions who have to get there cut or nothing happens. It’s one of the reasons this area is so stagnant.

    5) I fail to see how our total snowfall is connected to this in any way. The problem isn’t our total snowfall, it’s the early arrival and the fact that the trees still were holding their leaves. This was basically a “century storm”. Prior to this there have only been two other recorded dates with earlier snowfall. One was 2/10′s of an inch and the other was 6 inches, both of which were nearly 100 years ago.

    Obviously there are lots of places the Federal government should be spending money, Savannah River sounds like it may be one of them. Unfortunately this area also is pretty well versed in HazMat/SuperFund cleanup sites. :) As mentioned above, I do concede that this event should remain at the local and state level. As for all of the other pork barrel waste that our duly elected officials dole out regularly, we could patter on endlessly about that. :)


  5. Thanks for commenting back!

    Point 1 is taken, and not something I had considered, actually. You’re right that the leaves would catch more snow, and that would cause more breakage than a bare tree. But I don’t see how throwing money at the problem fixes anything. The National Guard has been dispatched to physically remove debris (150+ according to reports), and I am in favor of that if the state is incapable of reallocating resources to clean up on their own. But come on– the state can pick up branches.

    For point 2, it’s not a question of how long I would be willing to live without electricity. If given a choice between life without electricity or death, I would choose life without electricity. This is more of a question about how long I could survive without electricity. I’m fairly resourceful, and am certain that I could provide for myself without electricity. Sure, life would be tougher, and probably shorter, but I could do it. Survival of the fittest, right?

    Point 3. I agree that federal flood insurance is ridiculous. Yet our government keeps on paying out. I guess that is what happens when the people are woefully under-represented as has been the case since shortly after the Reapportionment Act of 1929 (fixed reps at 435 instead of allowing increases to meet population growth).

    4. The state still has a $2+ Billion surplus, and they are required to reallocate those funds to address emergencies if necessary.

    5. The total snowfall is connected in that New York is prepared to remove snow, both in terms of budget and equipment. They have plows, salt trucks, etc. If a state has the equipment, they should be able to foot the bill to run it (basic budget and administrative competency). Cities, counties, and states budget money for their snow removal based on historical averages and annual predictions. NY should have already budgeted the money for snow removal for the year based on how much snow they expect. If the amount of snowfall for any state does not massively exceed the estimates and averages, then that state does not deserve a federal penny to remove the snow– let alone 1.7 cents from every single living American.

    Take this snowfall and move here to Savannah, and we are closer to a real emergency, but still not there. We have zero snow plows. We have zero salt trucks (most people down here have no idea what a salt truck is!). We have absolutely no way to remove the snow. But then again, on the rare occasions that it does snow, we just wait for it to melt (usually instantly upon reaching the ground).

    Side note: Have you checked out my main site, America’s Debate? Give it a look. I bet you’ll like it.


    Edited to add: By the way, I grew up in the burbs of Chicago, and moved south specifically to get away from the snow. Consider me to be incredibly biased!


  6. You can’t keep replying in a rational and sensible way! That’s un-American, you have to attack me with the ever present “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality that’s everywhere these days. ;)

    You should be here now…the big debate at this point if they declare it a federal disaster to what extent will FEMA payout? Just to governments or also individual claims. Me thinks a lot of people are looking for someone to pay for that shiny new generator they just bought. NOT! If they do that it would be really stupid. I can’t imagine they will…at least I hope not.

    #4 The “state still has a $2+ Billion surplus”! Where did that come from? New York is one of the most indebted states in the country. See

    Looked at your main site…interesting, but generally don’t have the time for this sort of thing. :)

    Interesting…I too am from the burbs of Chicago (north, Gurnee). Took a job transfer here in 1989.


  7. Hi again!

    “Looked at your main site…interesting, but generally don’t have the time for this sort of thing.”

    Yeah, yeah– but it’s so addicting! The problem for me is that most of the members are much smarter than me. I keep my lunatic rants and raves over here on my blog (Yeah, this was a lunatic rant and rave until you forced me to pull sources!). I generally let my insanity show on America’s Debate Radio as well.

    Here’s where I got my info on the surplus:



  8. “The downed trees would be downed at a greater pace were this to occur at a time when the average temperature has been lower than freezing. As temperature decreases, objects that rely on moisture to provide flexibility grow more and more brittle, and more and more susceptible to breakage under stress. Were this a winter storm, the damage would be much greater. Would it be an emergency then?”

    Wow you sure am smart. I don’t live anywhere near Buffalo, but I’ll bet the downed trees had to do with the fact that the trees still had leaves, which added an enormous amount of additional weight that the trees could not support.

  9. Eh, read the comments before yours and see that I conceded that point.

    And what kind of person goes around to blogs simply to point out minor errors that were subsequently corrected?

    I hope it felt good. Ego +1. Your day may now carry on in a more fulfilled manner.


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