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ODOT crews travel to Buffalo to help area dig out after deadly blizzard

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Posted at 10:31 AM, Dec 29, 2022

ASHTABULA, Ohio — More than two dozen ODOT workers left Northeast Ohio Thursday morning on their way to Buffalo to help out crews dealing with monumental snowfall this holiday season.

A convoy of 28 drivers, mechanics and managers left ODOT's Ashtabula facility this morning.

Drivers from Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are making the trip.

"It's tough being away from the kids," ODOT Ashtabula County Transportation Manager Andy Jackson explained. "But they realize what we do for a living and they know the need that Buffalo is going through right now so any help we can give them."

The National Weather Service reports more than 51 inches of snow over the past five days at the Buffalo Airport.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced Tuesday that a total of 27 storm-related deaths, in addition to seven fatalities in the city's suburbs. The toll surpasses that of the historic Blizzard of 1977, blamed for killing as many as 29 people in a region known for harsh winter weather.

"I was stunned," ODOT Lake County driver Williams Harris said. "This is going to be a first. I like an adventure."

RELATED: Buffalo faces more snow after deadliest storm in decades

Temperatures in Western New York are rising, and Buffalo should see some relief from the deep freeze, but there are now flooding concerns as the massive amount of snow melts.

ODOT's mission in New York will not focus on clearing the streets with their plows, but instead shrinking the manmade mountains of snow with their fleet of dump trucks.

"Salt is not the most pressing priority, plows are not the most pressing priority," ODOT Assistant Director Mitch Blackford said to the group of drivers before departing. "They have massive piles of snow and there’s nowhere to push the snow."

RELATED: With warming, snowbound Buffalo braces for possible flooding

Leaders say this is the first time they can remember that they’ve been sent to help out upstate New York with their infamous lake effect snow.

"It may never happen again, but like they were saying, we'll probably remember this for the rest of our career I imagine," ODOT Ashtabula driver Tim Campbell explained.

The crews from Ohio are slated to return to the Buckeye State on Tuesday.

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