Thousands remain without power in western New York as cleanup from last week's winter storm continues.
Parts of western New York received two feet of snow overnight Thursday. The weekend's warm weather and this week's expected rain is contributing to already swollen creeks and rivers. To add to the misery, some 300,000 people are still without power and phone lines from last week's winter storm. High winds and heavy ice and snow downed trees and power lines.
Many school districts canceled this week of school because the power is still off and because so many trees remain down as residents and road crews try to clean up the mess. Some areas are expected to remain without power until Friday. Erie County also has a boil order in effect.
President George Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for New York to help local and state responders attend to the snowstorm's destruction. Three deaths are also blamed on the storm.
"(The Federal Emergency Management Agency's) emergency declaration is welcomed news and lifts a tremendous financial burden for the costs of debris removal and protective measures taken by the communities in Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties who were battered by this freak October storm," said New York Gov. George Pataki.
The forecast for the week in the western New York area calls for rain almost every day, which has emergency officials eyeing river and creek water levels.
Disaster responders worry that the combination of no power, empty grocery stores and the driving ban will hit low-income families very hard.
"I'm worried about those people living day to day," said Joann Hale, a Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison for Church World Service. "These folks can't get to the agencies that offer help because businesses are closed. There's also a driving ban. If you're fortunate enough to own a home, but yet there's no power and you can't get to work - you're going to be hurting."
Hale, who lives in western New York, said many roads remain impassable due to the downed trees. "It looks like many were hit by a helicopter."
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