earliest snow storms in memory

Approximately 30 cm of snow fell on the region overnight Thursday prompting officials in Fort Erie, Ontario and Port Colborne to declare a state of emergency. Residents are being asked to avoid travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Yellow tape was used to seal off streets in Port Colborne and crews stood guard to ensure no one wandered into areas with downed power lines.

“Because of the extent of the damage, full restoration might take three to five days,” Canadian Niagara Power president Bill Daly said Friday.

The freak storm stunned weather specialists, including Environment Canada’s Geoff Coulson, who said the amount of snow that fell is unprecedented.

“We’ve been trying to look for similar events on record for Fort Erie, but we haven’t been able to find anything of this magnitude for this month,” he said.

It was even worse in Western New York where 60 cm fell and authorities also declared states of emergency in five counties. Now officials in Buffalo are worried about the possibility of flooding as the snow starts to melt.

Nearly 400,000 homes and businesses in the state are without power and shelters have been set up across the affected counties.

The heavy snow snapped branches, bringing down several power lines on both sides of the border. Officials in the area say the storm may not have been so bad if it had just come a few weeks later when all the leaves had fallen from the trees – they collect the snow and weigh the branches down.

The freak storm has also been blamed for at least three deaths in New York state. Two people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents and a falling tree limb killed another person while they were shoveling snow.