Good Samaritans in Buffalo step up to the plate as western N.Y. hit by 'blizzard of the century'
A ravaged Buffalo, N.Y., faced more snowfall on Tuesday as the death toll from the weekend’s blizzard continued to rise. Residents of the western part of the state worked to recover from the deadliest storm the area has seen in at least two generations.
During a press conference on Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called it the “blizzard of the century.” The National Weather Service recorded more than 49 inches of snow in Buffalo, where authorities said at least 28 people have died. Across the U.S., at least 60 weather-related deaths were reported.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz warned people to stay home to “keep roadways clear for emergency vehicles,” and said state and military police have been deployed to enforce the driving ban.
Following the blizzard and ongoing rescue efforts, stories of heroic citizens are continuing to emerge.
On Christmas Eve, Sha’Kyra Aughtry said she heard a man outside screaming for help. She looked through her window and saw 64-year-old Joseph White.
“When I looked out the window, he was getting blowed up and down the street, it was out of control,” Aughtry said in a Facebook Live on Christmas Day.
Her boyfriend, Trent, had gone outside to pick up White and bring him into her home. She said his hands were frostbitten and covered in ice. She even had to cut a bag that was frozen stuck to his hands and blow dry ice off of him.
White works at the North Park movie theater and was there leading up to the storm. His sister, according to SweetBuffalo, a local storytelling platform, believes he went there Thursday and then decided to walk back to his home when he got stuck.
Aughtry said she took care of him, but the mother of three could only do so much and calls for help were going unanswered as emergency services could only put her on a “list.” So, she pleaded for help on Facebook.
“We gotta figure this out as a community,” she stressed. “I can’t do no more, I just can’t have this man lose his life in my house, I have [done] everything that I can do. This man needs help.”
The video worked: kind men showed up to her home, carried White outside to a truck and drove him to a hospital with her following along in one of their vehicles.
“This man could have died, 64 years old could have died outside. I wasn’t letting that happen on my watch and he wasn’t going to die in front of my kids,” Aughtry said.
His co-worker said on GoFundMe that White, who is mentally disabled, didn’t understand the impact the storm would cause.
“Joe’s condition is stable and he’s in good spirits, but it’s still too early to know anything about his hands.”
Meanwhile, in another part of town just northeast of Buffalo, a group of Korean tourists were able to avoid freezing thanks to the help of a Good Samaritan.
Alex Campagna, a dentist in nearby Williamsville, wrote on Facebook that at 2 p.m., he heard a “frantic knock on the door today during the worst blizzard I’ve experienced.”
It was a group of 10 travelers heading to Niagara Falls from Washington, D.C., on a bus that got stuck in the blizzard. They initially knocked on Campagna’s door to ask for shovels to dig their way out of a ditch.
Instead, Campagna and his wife invited them in and made them a part of their hunkered-down holiday with him saying he knew “as a Buffalonian, this is on another level, the Darth Vader of storms,” he told the New York Times.
According to the report, the group spent the two days leading up to Christmas sharing stories and cooking with their generous hosts. The report said they watched an NFL game on Christmas Eve and made several Korean meals, until they could get picked up on Sunday.
Social media continues to share stories of acts of kindness in one of the worst storms any of them has ever seen.
A local reporter for WGRZ, the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, called it “the City of Good Neighbors,” tweeting about a man who helped neighbors by using a kayak to move a snowblower and some gasoline down the road to help a friend.
Creativity in action in the City of Good Neighbors.
Buffalo man assisting a friend.
He’s using a kayak to transport a snowblower and tank of gas a couple of miles down the road. pic.twitter.com/k69SpXvOUK
— Bill Smafia (@KevinBuffalo) December 26, 2022
Some residents got into the good neighbor spirit, shoveling snow for others without being asked.
“People I don’t even know are shoveling out our driveway right now,” Carli Zielinski tweeted.
Others shared stories of taking neighbors they didn’t know into their homes. One Twitter user gladly welcomed people they now consider friends: “Took in some cold strangers/neighbors last night, won’t be strangers for long now.”
Took in some cold strangers/neighbors last night, won’t be strangers for long now #cityofgoodneighbors pic.twitter.com/FKn9PYI4Dt
— K Schmitty (@SchmittsNGiggle) December 25, 2022