BUFFALO, N.Y. — Four hundred and sixty New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were on state active duty Dec. 27 to help respond to the massive snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area over Christmas weekend.
About 80 more troops were to be mobilized Dec. 27.
Four feet of snow fell on the region along Lake Erie from Christmas Eve to Dec. 26, with more expected Dec. 27. At least 28 people died, and local officials expected the number of fatalities to climb. The storm knocked out electricity in many areas and closed roads.
“This is an epic, statewide hazard,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
National Guard Soldiers and Airmen conducted health and wellness checks with Buffalo police officers, cleared snow at critical locations, moved health care workers to and from hospitals and other health facilities, and occasionally transported patients to hospitals.
Soldiers and Airmen rescued 86 people from hazardous situations and, in one case, got a woman to John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital just before she gave birth.
“We have a running joke internally about how many babies Lt. (Richard) Burns is going to deliver today,” said Army Maj. Luke Udell, the task force operations officer.
Pfc. Matthew Waldman, a member of the 105th Military Police Company, learned from his mother that a pregnant woman he was close to had gone into labor. He went to her home, helped deliver the baby, then reported for duty.
Hochul initially requested 50 Guard Soldiers and Airmen provide transportation assistance in the Buffalo area. Additional personnel from the New York State Police, the Department of Transportation, the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the New York Thruway Authority were also assigned to the area.
As the storm’s intensity exceeded expectations, the governor directed the New York National Guard to mobilize more troops with more capabilities.
“We continue to work around the clock with local leaders to respond to this historic storm and are in contact with the White House to secure critical federal assistance to help our communities recover,” Hochul said.
Units mobilized for the mission came from western and Central New York.
The 153rd Troop Command, a brigade-level headquarters based in Buffalo’s Connecticut Street Armory, is commanding the operation, with Army engineer support by the 827th Engineer Company.
Soldiers from the 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo and the 102nd Military Police Company in Auburn were performing general missions and helping police conduct health and wellness checks.
The 827th Engineer Company deployed a front-end loader and skid steers to help clear snow and was adding more dump trucks and front-end loaders.
The 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry in Utica also deployed a general-purpose support team.
The 174th Attack Wing, based at Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, deployed a debris clearance team, a general-purpose support team, and a runway snowblower to help clear the New York State Thruway.
Closer to the storm’s epicenter, the 107th Attack Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station deployed a general-purpose response force and a specially trained team to recover those who died. That unit was working with the Erie County emergency operations center.
The 42nd Infantry Division was also deploying Soldiers from elements in Buffalo to assist with the mission.