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British Bills fans make annual trek to Orchard Park

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Bills fans, from left, John Manning, Brad Clayden, Nick Manning and Greg Zalka, make their way into Ralph Wilson Stadium for today's game. Photo by Mark Mulville / Buffalo News

ORCHARD PARK -- Three lads from Great Britain got their annual dose this weekend of the woes Buffalo sports fans have come to expect.

Nick Manning, his father, John Manning; and Greg Zalka, of London, England, joined by their friend Brad Clayden of Toronto, watched the Bills improve to 3-10 for the season in a rain-soaked win over the Cleveland Browns.

It was a contest most locals couldn't be bothered to watch -- Ralph Wilson Stadium was half-filled and the game was blacked out on TV.

They watched their first NHL game Saturday and saw the equally disappointing Sabres fall to the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins led by star Sidney Crosby.

But they were undeterred by foul weather or losses. They were just happy to be in Orchard Park.

"Tailgating is absolutely fantastic," said Nick, 31, president of the UK Bills Backers, which is part of a worldwide network of Bills fans.

The miserable game-time weather was no bother, they said. In fact, it was reminiscent of foggy London town.

"It makes us feel at home," said John, 57.

On Sunday they were dressed head to toe in Santa costumes complete with long, white beards. Nick was flying a homemade Union Jack modified to incorporate the Bills' charging buffalo logo.

"This is hand-stitched by me," he said holding it proudly. "I broke two sewing machines making it. My wife and my mother are very annoyed."

Nick estimates there are about 300 Bills fans in the U.K. His interest in the NFL team was sparked when his dad took him to see the Bills play the Philadelphia Eagles in July 1991 in an exhibition then known as the "American Bowl." The Bills beat the Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London, 17-13.

"The NFL is huge over there," he said. "We have a great game in London every year. And hopefully they'll get the Super Bowl and the Bills will be in it."

Just how far does his dedication to the team go?

Manning even got engaged at the Ralph after a Bills win. And he wears a Bills jersey with his last name on the back and the number 79 -- the year he was born and his number when he played left guard for the London Blitz.

He watches every Bills game on the Internet -- even the Monday Night Football games that go into the wee hours of the morning given the time difference.

These Bills Brits make a point of enjoying more than just a football game during their annual visit to Buffalo. They've toured the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House and City Hall.

Nick Manning, who works for Britain's Defense Ministry, likened the mansions and area around Delaware Park to London's posh Regent's Park.

"It's a really lovely area," he said.

He's disappointed in this season's team but pleased with Chan Gailey's coaching style.

"My big complaint with the Bills is they didn't make enough of a change in the front office," he said. "Talent evaluation has been poor for a decade."

He's also not a proponent of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills quarterback who has at times shined this season.

"Let's get a quarterback in here that's going to succeed for Buffalo," he said. "Let's get a line built around Eric Wood and Andy Levitre and let's move this team forward."

He has a seven-month-old daughter who he plans to indoctrinate into Bills fandom.

"She is definitely going to be a Bills fan," he said. "It's compulsory now in my family."

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Lighting up Delaware Park

Note to eastbound drivers on the Scajaquada Expressway this evening -- try very hard to keep your eyes on the road. After Mayor Byron W. Brown throws the switch at 6:15 p.m., your attention could be irresistibly drawn to a display of more than 50,000 holiday lights along the ring road and Parkside Avenue all the way up to Jewett Parkway, covering 15 acres in all.

The debut of the display, called Olmsted Lights Winter Nights, comes during a $50-a-ticket opening party at 6 in the Parkside Lodge off Parkside Avenue. Holiday treats will be provided by Current Catering. Players from the Kavinoky Theatre will offer a surprise holiday performance. The lighting, which will be up for five weeks, was designed by Shannon Schweitzer, a Buffalo State College professor who works with local theater companies and on the college's productions. For info, visit www.bfloparks.org.

Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, describes the display:

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Buffalo Tracks -- Dec. 9

In a world where things are a Google search away, people and places with local ties pop up on many corners of the Internet.

People who used to live in the Buffalo area, as well as others who still call this place home, have a habit of making news elsewhere.

On an occasional basis, Buffalo News Live will highlight these Buffalonians, whether they're gone or they're still here. Here's the latest edition of Buffalo Tracks:

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A Niagara Falls native runs a consulting and IT firm in Florida which is part of a trend of private military contractors whose companies are growing quickly in that state, according to Florida Trend Magazine. Gregory Celestan founded Celestar in 2001.

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(This one came by way of a reader tip.) A Town of Tonawanda native has taken over as executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, where he has been working since 1980. Gary Jastrzab recently did a Q&A with PlanPhilly.com, a news organization that's part of the University of Pennsylvania.

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A Buffalo native has been elected to the City Council in Cathedral City, Calif. Sam Toles told the The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) the economy will be his main focus in office.

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A Lewiston native is a performer with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. Kristin Haight, who moved from Niagara County as a 6-year-old, says some of her success comes from her athleticism.

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A Buffalo native and former Congressman remains the head of the Lee County (Fla.) Republican Committee. Gary Lee has earned a fourth term in that role, according to the Fort Meyers News-Press.

You can check out previous editions of Buffalo Tracks here.

If you know of former Western New Yorkers making news elsewhere, send me an e-mail at [email protected].

--Aaron Besecker

Morning Roundup -- Thursday, Dec. 9

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Tourists on Wednesday visit Goat Island in Niagara Falls, part of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area. The commission charged with planning the heritage area held its first meeting Wednesday.

Good morning. Here are today's top headlines:

In the wake of last week's storm, the Thruway Authority says it will close ramps during snowstorms if conditions warrant.

A Cheektowaga woman has been awarded $66 million in an injury case, in what is believed to be the single biggest personal injury award in Western New York history.

A submerged canal boat that may date from the 1830s was found in October in the Oswego River, a discovery that may fuel efforts to build a Buffalo canal museum.

Here's a preview of Sunday's Bills-Browns matchup with Mark Gaughan, Allen Wilson and Jerry Sullivan:

Arts Editor Jeff Simon reviews "The Tourist."

For a look at today's other happenings, including today's weather forecast, check out Good Morning, Buffalo.

You also can check out The Buffalo News on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

--Aaron Besecker 

Time Warner tells customers Fox shows will go on

Negotiations between Time Warner Cable and the company that owns Buffalo's Fox affiliate have taken a new twist.

The cable company has started notifying its customers that it has a deal with Fox that would allow Time Warner to continue offering popular Fox shows if it does not reach a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. by Jan. 1, said Matthew Tremblay, a Time Warner spokesman.

Maryland-based Sinclair -- which owns WUTV Fox 29 and WNYO myTV in the Buffalo area -- started scrolling a message on its two Buffalo stations last month that warned that the two channels could be pulled from the local cable lineup if a deal with Time Warner is not reached.

The two companies have been negotiating since June over the amount of money Time Warner pays to Sinclair Broadcasting to carry its stations. The current contract expires Dec. 31.

Earlier story: 'Glee' may go, local Fox affiliate warns

--Denise Jewell Gee

Lake-effect snow warning continues in Southern Tier through Thursday morning

HolidayValleySnow allowed Holiday Valley to open for skiing Tuesday. Persistent lake-effect snow continues to impact the Southern Tier. (Harry Scull Jr./ Buffalo News)

Heavy lake-effect snow will continue to pound some areas of the Southern Tier through tonight, the National Weather Service has forecast.

Meteorologists expect another 5 to 8 inches to fall overnight in persistent bands that will likely affect western Southern Tier in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

Wind gusts up to 30 mph and heavy snow could continue to make driving difficult through the afternoon, according to a Lake-Effect Snow Warning in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday.

Two main bands of lake-effect snow this afternoon were impacting areas from Silver Creek to Fredonia, as well as the southern-most sections of Erie County and northern Cattaraugus County, as of 2:15 p.m.

Some areas in the Southern Tier have seen more than three feet during the last three days. Randolph in Cattaraugus County had a storm total of 47 inches of snow as of 8 a.m., said Chris Fisher of the National Weather Service.

Jamestown reported 15.5 inches, while Franklinville and Hinsdale had 18 inches this morning.

"It should start winding down tomorrow," Fisher said.

Early forecasts for the weekend show a low pressure system could bring additional precipitation on Sunday. Although it is too early to tell what type of precipitation that will mean, Fisher said, it is not expected to be lake-effect snow.

Related: See a gallery of ski photographs in "Hitting the slopes at Holiday Valley."

--Denise Jewell Gee

Fireboat restoration, new trail in Niagara Falls among new Greenway proposals

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Restoration work on the Edward M. Cotter, a fireboat owned by the City of Buffalo, is one of five proposals going before the Niagara River Greenway Commission. (Sharon Cantillon /Buffalo News file photo)

A proposal to refurbish a floating Buffalo landmark is among the five projects looking for access to a multi-million dollar fund established through a deal with the New York Power Authority.

Friends of the Edward M. Cotter and the sponsors of four other projects want the endorsement of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, which would give them the ability to apply to a $9 million annual fund established as part of the 50-year relicensing of the authority's Niagara Power Project.

The $700,000 restoration project would turn the Cotter into a floating waterfront history center on the Buffalo River, according to the group's application.

The Greenway Commission -- whose membership currently includes six state agencies or authorities as well as other appointees -- holds no power to fund any projects. That power lies with a series of committees and is handled through a separate application process.

In addition to the plans for the fireboat, a proposal for a fishing pier at the end of Tifft Street in Buffalo and an extended trail in Niagara Falls will also come before the state-appointed panel early next year.

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A rendering of the proposed Tifft Street Fishing Pier as displayed during a public meeting of the Outer Harbor Parkway Landscape Panel in March 2008. (Sharon Cantillon /Buffalo News file photo)

The City of Buffalo's $1.88 million plan for the new fishing pier seeks $470,000 in Greenway funding, according to the city's application to the commission.

In Niagara Falls, the Niagara Street Business and Professional Association has proposed a $102,000 project dubbed the "Gill Creek Park educational nature trail." The proposal calls to extend an existing, 450-foot trail along Hyde Park Boulevard and Packard Road north to Ferry Avenue and south to Buffalo Avenue. Read the full application here.

In addition to Buffalo projects and the Niagara Falls trail, the North Tonawanda History Museum wants support for its planned Lumber City History Center, which it calls "an interactive, virtual reality, entertainment-type museum." The project has an estimated cost of $819,000, and the museum is looking for $647,000 in Greenway funding, according to its application.

Also, the Niagara Falls Family YMCA is looking for $261,550 towards its $336,000 capital repair project, according to its application.

The commission is scheduled to take up the requests for endorsement during its Jan. 18 meeting.

--Aaron Besecker

Morning Roundup -- Monday, Dec. 6

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Bulldozers push snow as a steady stream of dump trucks unloads tons of it Sunday at the Republic Steel site, South Park Avenue at Abby Street. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Good morning. Here are today's top headlines:

Looking back on his term, Gov. David Paterson blames Albany's dysfunction, The News' Tom Precious reports.

A lawsuit over an 11-year-old crash that left a man paralyzed is still pending as questions remain impacting a payout from Ford Motor Credit Co.

Mayor Byron Brown says the city's snowfighting in South Buffalo "went as planned."

Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan says the Bills took a big step back with Sunday's loss to the Vikings.

Check out a post-game wrap up with The News' Mark Gaughan, Allen Wilson and Sullivan:

For a look at today's other happenings, including today's weather forecast, check out Good Morning, Buffalo.

You also can check out The Buffalo News on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

--Aaron Besecker 

South Park Avenue in better shape

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The scene on South Park Avenue in South Buffalo earlier this afternoon. Photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News

South Park Avenue near the Buffalo-Lackawanna city line is in better shape this afternoon after separate incidents on both sides of the border snarled traffic earlier today, a top Buffalo police official said.    

At least 20 vehicles were backed up on South Park in Buffalo after a tractor-trailer jackknifed around midnight on the Lackawanna side of Ridge Road, prompting Lackawanna officials to block off access into their city from South Park to deal with the accident, South District Chief Patrick M. Pascall said.    

That accident was cleared early this morning, Pascall said, but a second issue developed several blocks north of Ridge Road near the Sorrento Cheese plant on South Park.    

Around 7 or 8 a.m., some Sorrento trucks arrived to make deliveries at the same time that the company tried to move other trucks from its parking lot to clear snow from the lot, Pascall said.    

"That caused a problem," he said, but this traffic tie-up was resolved after a couple of hours.    

-- Stephen T. Watson

Friday storm updates

4:24 p.m.: Staff Reporter Stephen T. Watson found out what caused the mess on South Park Avenue earlier today.

4:19 p.m.: Check out the scene in South Buffalo this morning and afternoon in the aftermath of the storm:

2:46 p.m.: The News' Harry Scull Jr. was on South Park Avenue when it was clogged earlier this afternoon (see earlier posts). Here's what it looked like from his vantage point:

South park

1:45 p.m.: The Buffalo Fire Department is out clearing snow from around fire hydrants in South Buffalo. Right now, crews are at South Park and Good avenues.

1:42 p.m.: South Park Avenue near the Buffalo-Lackawanna line is no longer a parking lot.

Whatever was causing the delays earlier this afternoon is gone, and traffic is moving relatively easily in both directions. It had been bumper-to-bumper with little movement of traffic for a couple hours.

I just drove from Ridge Road up South Park, past Tifft Street, and what had been around a 3-inch sheet of snow and ice has melted down -- in a lot of spots -- to bare, wet pavement.

If you need to use this as part of your route, it will be a little slow, but not like it was earlier.

11:44 a.m.: South Park Avenue in South Buffalo is a mess right now. Avoid it at all costs. I'm walking now near the Post Office near Woodside, and traffic in both directions is barely moving -- if at all. I'll keep you posted.

9:57 a.m.: The ride down Ridge Road towards Route 5 in Lackawanna was a lot smoother than the drive down Abbott Road, but it was still slightly bumpy due to a layer of ice and snow. Heading downtown on Route 5 remains free, clear and up-to-speed.

9:25 a.m.: Driving down Abbott Road from South Park Avenue toward Lackawanna is a rough ride. There's a bumpy base of ice, snow and slush that shook my car for most of that stretch of road. There were several cars parked along Abbott plowed in and completely buried in snow. The ride became a lot smoother once I got into Lackawanna.

9:11 a.m.: And how does that lake effect form? Most Western New Yorkers know all too well, but if you're trying to explain it to the kids, here's a handy interactive from the Associated Press.

9:04 a.m.: The News' Maki Becker just filed this report on what the National Weather Service sees happening today and into next week. It looks like ski country will get the lake effect today, leaving South Buffalo and the Southtowns some time to dig out. Starting Sunday, a general snowfall is expected to hit the entire area.

9:02 a.m.: Tifft Street was in good shape getting off Route 5 until I reached Hopkins Street. Between Hopkins and South Park Avenue, Tifft is covered in a layer of snow, ice and slush.Heading inbound on South Park, the road is still covered with snow and slush, but  it's in better shape than Tifft.

8:35 a.m.: By the time you get to the City of Buffalo line on northbound Route 5, you're at full speed. That has basically been the story all morning long.

8:33 a.m.: One thing you'll notice as you drive around this morning is the amount of ice still on some roadways. It's not black ice -- you can definitely see, and feel, it. It will slow you down and make for a rough ride at times.

8:31 a.m.: Once you get past the light at Noco on Route 5, speeds pick up. You'll be able to go 20 to 25 mph. Best to get in the left or middle lane; if you're in the right lane, you'll likely have to get over to avoid snowbanks.

8:22 a.m.: Heading from Exit 56 in Blasdell down Milestrip toward Route 5, I had no problems.

Once on Route 5, things are slow. I'm rolling along -- moving, but slowly. It took about five minutes for me to get from Milestrip to the Lackawanna city line headed north. At most, I'm going 10 mph. No sign of any accidents so far.

8:18 a.m.: Snowfall totals for the region range from 32.5 inches (Alden) to none (Niagara Falls).

8:12 a.m.: Donn Esmonde caught up with motorists who were stranded on the Thruway and were approached by con artists trying to sell them gas for $25 a gallon.

7:57 a.m.: Just got a good look at the 400 interchange with Transit Road.

If you're headed south on Transit Road, the entrance to the northbound 400 -- toward the Thruway -- remains closed. All other entrances to the 400 at Transit are open. So if you need to get on the northbound 400, you'll just have to find your way onto Transit heading north.


View Larger Map

7:51 a.m.: Although the Thruway is open, there are some tricky spots calling for smart, safe driving. One such location is the interchange with Route 400. If you're on the eastbound Thruway trying to get on the 400, the exit lane is full of snow pushed out of the other lanes. That makes it very difficult to get onto the ramp for the 400. Basically, you have to make that maneuver at the very last minute.

Then, the merge onto the 400 has its own set of problems. Snow-removal equipment blocks your view as you try to see traffic coming off the westbound Thruway. 

Be careful.

7:46 a.m.: A cruise down the freshly reopened Thruway showed very little out of the ordinary. Driving west from the 290 to the  Lackawanna toll barrier, traffic was up to speed. There are still some disabled trucks, but nothing that's affecting the drive.

7:39 a.m.: The drive into the city on Route 5 is slower than normal. On a drive on northbound Route 5 shortly after 7 a.m., traffic slowed down in Woodlawn -- just past Milestrip/Route 179. The stretch just past there, which is usually three lanes, is somewhat clogged by areas where the far-right lane is holding snow cleared from the other lanes; in some places, that's not a problem, but it does slow things down once you get past Bethlehem Park in Lackawanna.

Also hampering that drive around 7:15 a.m. was a tire in the right lane right around the Ridge Road overpass. Once you get past Ridge Road, the road is pretty much clear down to the pavement and the ride is up to speed the rest of the way downtown.

6:43 a.m.: Within the last hour, the Thruway has reopened. Go here for a look at Thursday night's cleanup efforts on the 90. Thruway Authority officials told The News that they were overwhelmed by the storm and vow to review their performance.

--Aaron Besecker

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