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A storm of complaints

   Commanders of Buffalo's snow-busting brigade insist crews did the best they could to keep streets passable after the region was socked by storms Friday and Sunday.

   But many residents disagreed, including hundreds who called City Hall Sunday night to complain about snow-choked streets.

   Buffalo's public works commissioner said plowing crews faced unusual circumstances. As if the double whammy wasn't bad enough, Steven J. Stepniak said the timing of the Friday storm compounded problems. Because fewer people have to work on weekends, plows had to deal with more vehicles parked curbside the day after the first heavy snowfall.

   Then came Sunday's storm, including fierce winds that created whiteouts and drifting snow. Stepniak said the progress city plows made in some areas was undone by powerful gusts of wind.

   Put all these factors together, said Stepniak, and they created a maze of hurdles for plowing crews.

   He estimated that by noon Sunday, 93 percent of all city side streets had seen a plow at least once since the Friday storm.

   Still, several hundred people called Buffalo's complaint line over a five-hour period Sunday night to gripe about snow-clogged streets. The city took the rare step of assigning clerks to staff the 311 line after hours. The non-emergency system typically only records callers' complaints on evenings and weekends.

   Citizen Services Director Oswaldo Mestre Jr. said his office and public works officials will scrutinize complaints to determine whether complaints were concentrated in certain neighborhoods.

   How would you assess plowing efforts on your street? What grade would you give to Buffalo's Public Works Department for its response to the storms?

   … Brian Meyer



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