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Lake effect snow storm buries parts of Western New York; Airmen respond

Senior Airman Robert Wagner from 107th Airlift Wing Security Forces takes part in removing the four feet of snow off the roof of Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca, New York from the snow storm that hit the Western New York area on Nov 18, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Lloyd).

Senior Airman Robert Wagner from 107th Airlift Wing Security Forces takes part in removing the four feet of snow off the roof of Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca, New York from the snow storm that hit the Western New York area on Nov 18, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Lloyd).

Airmen from the 107th Airlift Wing’s Security Forces take a break from removing four feet of snow from the roof of Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca, New York which came from the snow storm that hit the Western New York area on Nov 18, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

Airmen from the 107th Airlift Wing’s Security Forces take a break from removing four feet of snow from the roof of Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca, New York which came from the snow storm that hit the Western New York area on Nov 18, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

New York National Guardsmen pile sandbags onto pallets to be used near Erie County Community College in Williamsville, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2014 as the area prepared for potential flooding from snow melt and rain after a large lake effect snow storm. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandy Fowler)

New York National Guardsmen pile sandbags onto pallets to be used near Erie County Community College in Williamsville, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2014 as the area prepared for potential flooding from snow melt and rain after a large lake effect snow storm. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandy Fowler)

Buffalo, N.Y. -- More than 30 members from 107th Airlift Wing's Security Forces, Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadrons helped citizens in Western New York dig out of the record-breaking snowfall last week. 

A localized band from South Buffalo to communities south and east of the city received more than six feet of snow that began falling in the early morning on November 18th. 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo activated approximately 375 members of the New York Air and Army National Guard to assist in the relief efforts. The group worked with multiple local law enforcement agencies, state and county Department of Corrections, and the New York State Department of Transportation to mediate the damage caused by the storm.

"We are motivated and ready to lend a hand in the community. I joined a guard unit so I could help my fellow New Yorkers in times of emergencies," said Chief Master Sergeant Richard Baker of the 107th Civil Engineer Squadron. "We did some snow removal in the beginning of the week and filled sandbags to prepare for possible flooding.  It amazes me to see so many people pitching in to help the community."

The weather conditions caused relief efforts to be difficult with roads being impassable. Security Forces Airmen used Humvees to travel to Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca. The building needed snow removed from its roof to prevent it from collapsing. The home could not evacuate its residents due to the road conditions. 

The 107th worked on this snow removal task for three days. The snow was about four feet deep covering the 55,000 square roof. The snow removal was such a major task that Army National Guard Soldiers were also deployed to help. The state purchased and transported snow blowers on an Army CH-47 helicopter for the job.

The staff and residents of the facility were happy to receive the help.

"Lots of citizens came to our break area and shook our hand and thanked us for our service," said Master Sgt. Thomas Rodgers, 107th Security Forces, who served as the team leader for the mission. 

107th Security Forces were later tasked to assist local law enforcement agencies.  The group was sent out in the community and helped aid Buffalo and New York State Police in traffic control measures. Many roads and streets had to be blocked off so the Army could use high lift equipment to remove the snow. The snow was so high in areas that a normal snow plow would not be able to move it. The snow was then loaded on to dump trucks and hauled away.

Meanwhile, Civil Engineers were tasked with filling sandbags.  The weather called for possible flooding with significant rain and warm temperatures in the coming days.  Sandbags were readied in staging areas setup north and south of the affected areas where flooding was anticipated.

The storm response is now winding down as the area did not receive as much rain and flooding as was initially predicted. 107th AW staff is currently augmenting the Joint Task Force out of the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo.