Mark Poloncarz: NY official says enforcing driving ban earlier in blizzard wouldn't 'have changed anything'
BUFFALO, NEW YORK: A driving restriction in blizzard-hit Buffalo would not have "changed anything" if it had been issued earlier, said Mark Poloncarz, a senior official in Erie County, New York. However, there is growing criticism that the driving ban was implemented far too late.
Poloncarz has come under fire for delaying the closure of the county's highways in Buffalo until just before 9 am on December 23, giving residents — many of whom were already at work — just 41 minutes to go home. Between 11.30 am and noon, according to officials, Buffalo and the surrounding area started to feel the full force of the storm. “As I said earlier today in response to whether the driving ban should have been instituted earlier, I do not know if it would have changed anything but it was my decision and I bear full responsibility,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted, adding, “As JFK said, ‘victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.'” At least 34 of the 59 fatalities from the big storm occurred in Erie County, with hundreds of motorists were stranded in their vehicles, some of whom died as a result, as per the New York Post.
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The driving ban in the City of Buffalo is expected to remain through today and will be reevaluated in the overnight/early morning based on street clearing progress.— Mark Poloncarz (@markpoloncarz) December 28, 2022
One of those who recently died while stranded in their vehicles was a nurse named Anndel Taylor whose family told the New York Post that the travel ban should have been implemented far sooner. “They said they were prepared for this storm but they were not prepared for this storm,” said Laneesha Smith, Taylor’s stepmother, adding, "So many lives probably could have been saved if they put the travel ban in the night before.”
Locals on Twitter also criticized Poloncarz's management of the historic storm. To help enforce the restriction and keep erratic drivers off the roads, Poloncarz on December 27 requested the deployment of 100 National Guard personnel. In addition, he blamed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown for the "embarrassing" response that had been made in the county's largest city following the historic storm.
The driving prohibition will remain in effect until December 29, thanks to the executive's announcement that Erie County has taken over snow clearance duties in several parts of the city. “The city, unfortunately, is always the last one to open,” he said, according to the Buffalo News. “It’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth. “I don’t want to see this anymore — I’m sick of it,” he said, adding, “I’m a city resident myself. It pains me to see the other 25 towns and two small cities open at times when the city isn’t." “I know the mayor’s not thrilled to hear it, but I don’t care anymore,” Poloncarz snapped, adding, “I want it done.”
Poloncarz was rebuffed by Brown, who retorted, "I don’t lose my mind during a crisis." “Some people handle that pressure a lot differently,” the mayor told the Buffalo News. “Some keep working, some keep trying to helping the residents of our community, and some break down and lash out. I don’t have a feud,” the mayor said, adding. “I’m peace and love. I’m calm, cool and collected.”
The National Guard is sending troops to check on trapped individuals in regions where electricity has been out as officials continue to deal with the catastrophic storm.