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Ice boom removal still a week away

BUFFALO -- Not quite yet.

There is still more than twice the amount of ice on the eastern end of Lake Erie than is needed to remove the ice boom.

"It's not going to happen Friday, but at some point afterwards," said Michael Saltzman, spokesman for the New York Power Authority.

Ice boom regulations require that the removal of the boom start on April 1, unless there is more than 250 square miles of ice on the eastern end of the lake.

The International Joint Commission estimated late last week that about 27 percent -- or about 530 square miles -- of the lake's eastern basin was covered with ice.

The 1.7-mile-long ice boom -- made up of metal pontoons linked together -- holds back ice floes from entering the Niagara River and damaging water intakes for the Power Authority's Niagara Power Project. 

"The Power Authority is planning additional aerial observation of the lake in the coming days to obtain the latest square mileage of ice cover," Saltzman said.

Last year, crews started removing the boom March 22. The earliest the boom was opened was March 5, 1998, and the latest was May 3, 1971, according to the International Joint Commission's International Niagara Board of Control.

Steve McLaughlin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, estimated that it could be at least a week before enough ice melts on the lake to remove the boom.

McLaughlin said the temperatures this month have shaped up to be just about average.

Overall temperatures have been just 2 degrees below normal, and the 13 inches of snow that fell is about typical, McLaughlin said.

But a cold spell that started last Wednesday has kept temperatures about 15 degrees below normal for the week, McLaughlin said.

Despite the cold temperatures, constant sunshine has helped reduce the ice cover in recent days, he said.

If it seems colder this March, it might be because the last two years saw unusually warm and dry Marches, McLaughlin said. Last year, it was 84 degrees on April 2.

The good news, McLaughlin said, is that a storm forecast to hit New England and eastern New York later this week is expected to bypass the region.

Meteorologists expect some light snow and rain during the next few days.

--Denise Jewell Gee

The Search: Five tips for finding the right college


Rosemarie Lenz, 16, of Clarence, fills out a form at the St. Bonaventure University stand during the National College Fair at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center on Tuesday. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

SATs. Financial aid. College essays.

The college application process can be daunting.

But admissions officers say students can take the stress out of the process if they start early and stay organized.

Admissions officers, school counselors and others gathered Tuesday for Buffalo's National College Fair at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. See what advice they have for high school juniors in this video:

Here are five tips for juniors preparing to navigate the college selection process.

Visit the Campus: There is a slew of information online about colleges. But admissions experts say the only real way to find out if a school is the right fit is to set foot on campus.

Once you've done your research to narrow down the choices, plan to visit your top schools.

Claudia Rodems, school counselor at Cheektowaga Central High School, recommends that students go "off the beaten path."

"You absolutely want to do the college tour, and perhaps you want to go sit in some classrooms and see what the class situation is like," Rodems said. "Maybe talk to the professors in that major that you're interested in, but also take an opportunity to go sit and have lunch in the cafeteria. Just listen to the conversation around you."

J.L. Miller, senior admissions counselor at Houghton College, recommends that students spend the night on campus, attend a class and meet with professors.

"Really immerse yourself," Miller said, "because it is such a significant decision."

Start Writing: The summer before your senior year is a good time to start working on the first draft of those college essays, said Eric Danielson, assistant director of admissions at St. Bonaventure University. 

Students can check out the Common Application online to get an idea of what types of essays are often required. Most essay topics, Danielson said, are open-ended, giving students a lot to write about. Preparing over the summer will give students time to polish their writing.

"Really, the best essays … tell us something about a student that we can't find out anywhere else in the application," Danielson said.

That means don't just list your extracurricular activities and background. Give admissions officers a taste of your personality.

And start early to give yourself a chance to eliminate typos and grammatical errors that can detract from an application.

Danielson also recommends that students use the summer before their senior year to think about what teachers they will ask for recommendations. 

Gather Financial Information Early: Parents and students should fill out financial forms as soon as possible after Jan. 1 of their senior year, said Robin Chase, program analyst for New York State Higher Education Services Corp.

"You want to get it done as quickly as possible, because any school-based aid is first-come, first-serve," Chase said.

Parents and students should also sit down and talk about the college options and explore ways to pay for school. Many parents, Chase said, erroneously assume that they won't qualify for financial aid.

"The earlier you file your financial aid forms, the better packages will be available to you from the respective financial aid offices," said Harry Gong, director of admissions at Niagara University.

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines: Start keeping track of what's due and what standardized tests you'll need to take in your junior year.

Gong recommends that high school juniors work closely with their school counselors to make sure they know about admission deadlines and requirements so they're ready to apply early in their senior year. 

"They should be really meeting now with their counselors and letting their counselors know exactly what it is they're thinking and where they might be planning on going," Gong said. 

Relax: There's so much going in the junior and senior years of high school, it can be easy to panic, said J.L. Miller, senior admission counselor at Houghton College.

"Don't stress," Miller said. "Step back and realize that you're going to be able to find a college; you're going to be able to get in."

Meeting requirements early, Miller said, will help take the stress off students as they focus on their final year of high school.

"You're talking about four very important years of your life," Miller said. "You don't want to just pick a school because you think its buildings are pretty or because its cost is cheap. You want to pick somewhere that is your fit and where you will thrive."

If You Go

What: Buffalo's National College Fair

Where: Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday

What you need to know: Evening workshops include information on financial aid, standardized tests, residence life and essay writing. Admission is free.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Buffalo Tracks -- March 28

In a world where things are a mere 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:

Mooresville News

A South Buffalo native touts the value of mentoring, according to a story in a newspaper outside CharlotteTom McMahon credits a now-deceased teacher at Burgard for getting his life on the right track.


A former Buffalo-area resident helped lead her high school basketball team to a championship in Maryland. Mary Kate Conway just finished her senior season for Notre Dame Prep in Townson, Md.

Rome News-Tribune

A former professional wrestler and Orchard Park native is touring the country speaking out against drugs. Larry Pfohl, known to many as Lex Luger, is now a born-again Christian, according to the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune.

A Buffalo native's on-ice highlights have earned him the respect of his teammates, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Michael Ratchuk was with the Fort Wayne Komets of the Central Hockey League as it made its push for the playoffs.


A woman who spends half the year living in Buffalo recently celebrated her 106th birthday, according to Hattie Bannister attends St. Luke AME Zion Church when she's here, according to the article.

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

--Aaron Besecker (Follow me on Twitter.)

The News' Andriatch discusses Verizon pullout, school budgets on WBFO

Bruce Andriatch, The News' suburban editor, talked about the Verizon deal in Somerset falling through and financial challenges facing area school districts on WBFO-FM 88.7 this morning:

Download the audio and take it with you

Collins announces re-election bid

Collins CHEEKTOWAGA -- Erie County Executive Chris Collins this morning made his reelection bid official during an event at Volland Electric — a company he is part owner of.

Flanked by his wife and son, Collins told a crowd of about 100 supporters he will stand in Novemeber for a second term.

"We have accomplished so much over the last several years, but our work, and most importantly our fight to make Erie County a better place, is far from over," he said.

Collins was introduced by Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy and joined by several Republican county legislators on the same factory floor where he announced his candidacy four years ago.

Collins reinforced many of the themes from his State of the County speech delivered earlier this month at South Buffalo Charter School including fiscal responsibility, smaller government and holding the line on taxes.

The incumbent is expected to face a strong challenge from a yet-to-be-named Democrat. Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Listen to Collins speech to supporters:

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Schumer to feds: Bring new technology to Buffalo airport

Schumer2 CHEEKTOWAGA -- Sen. Charles E. Schumer today called on the Department of Homeland Security to test out new airport security technology here.

His proposal would bring in machines that electronically scans passenger IDs to weed out the fakes, spot aliases and alert authorities to outstanding warrants.

"They're going to have one medium-sized airport — which Buffalo is — be a test case, and we want it to be Buffalo," he said this afternoon at a news conference in Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Schumer's call follows a recent security lapse at the airport. Federal agents arrested TSA employee Minnetta Walker earlier this month on charges that she provided information to suspected drug dealers and helped them get past security checkpoints with minimum security.

"If these machines had been installed in Buffalo the scheme would never have gotten off the ground and this TSA agent couldn't have done anything to help these drug dealers," he said. "That is the biggest point."

One large airport — John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City — has already been selected as a test case, Schumer said.

Buffalo is a good fit for the medium-sized test case because it offers international flights, fits the size requirement and has a "demonstrated need" considering its close proximity to the Canadian border, he said.

Listen to the full news conference with Schumer:

Schumer also answered reporters' questions on a variety of other matters including the U.S. military engagement in Libya, his attack on phone applications that allow drunk drivers to avoid sobriety checkpoints and the NFL lockout and future of the Buffalo Bills:

-- Joseph Popiolkowski

Review live chat with Rx for Danger reporters

Audio: Drug czar discusses prescription drug abuse issue

R. Gil Kerlikowske, who is President Obama's drug czar, recently spoke with The News for its "Rx for Danger" series. (Associated Press)

Today is the fourth and final day of The Buffalo News' "Rx for Danger" series looking at the emergence of various problems associated with the abuse of prescription drugs.

News Staff Reporter Henry Davis recently caught up with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, to talk about the issue and what's being done on a national level.

Here are several clips from Davis' interview with Kerlikowske. Listen to what the former Buffalo Police commissioner had to say:

On the scope of the problem and some previously announced approaches to deal with it...

On "drug take-back days" and the cleaning out household medicine cabinets...

On the need to reduce cases of addiction while not restricting access to needed medicine...

On how to improve prescription monitoring programs...

On how to change public perception about the dangers of prescription drugs...

On getting doctors trained in how to prescribe these drugs...

On advice for parents...

Mayor Brown relaxes with roadside revelers during parade

3:29 p.m. — The 1.2-mile long route from Niagara Square to North Street was lined deep with revelers -- many of them wearing green. Even a yellow Labrador whose fur had somehow been colored green was in attendance. The crowd seemed in high spirits with very little rowdy behavior.

I followed the Blackthorn Club, one of the first groups in the parade, as they began their march down Delaware. Wearing black coats and top hats, the South Buffalo-based social club's members waved and smiled as the crowd cheered them.

Even Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown got in on the fun by accepting a woman's invitation to relax momentarily with her group on their roadside couch:

2 p.m. — Irish eyes are smilin' today on downtown Buffalo where the annual St. Patrick's Day parade is about to get under way.

Photo(4) Grand marshal Patrick "Rick" O'Sullivan told Live that he's "not even touching the ground at the moment" as he prepared to lead the parade with his 76-year-old mother as co-marshal (pictured, at left).

Countless marchers and community groups have amassed in Niagara Square for today's parade. Elected officials including Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins have also been spotted lining up.

-- Joseph Popiolkowski

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