Two-time Professional Bowlers Association titlist Ryan Ciminelli feels lucky today to be among the survivors of what may be the worst snowstorm to bury the Buffalo, New York, area in a century.
Ciminelli, a 28-year-old lifelong resident of Buffalo suburb Cheektowaga, explained his harrowing story while taking a break Friday from trying to clear more than five feet of snow from the roof of his house.
Last Sunday, Ciminelli flew home from Tokyo, where he had competed in the Round1 Japan Cup, when the lake-effect snow across Lake Erie began to bury the region in up to nine feet of snow. Ciminelli’s personal troubles began with an airline maintenance problem that delayed his arrival in Buffalo from Monday night until Tuesday.
“When we got in, there was only about three inches of snow on the ground at the airport, but no one could come and get me, so I decided to walk home (about three miles),” he said. “I wasn’t dressed for the snow. I didn’t have a hat or gloves, or anything. By the time I got to the end of my street, there was no way I could get to my house. I could either try to walk through five feet of snow to a neighbor’s house, or turn around and go back toward another friend’s house near the airport. I decided to try for my neighbor’s house.
“By the time I got through the snow – it was less than 500 feet – my legs had gone numb. I literally fell into their garage. They got me inside and warmed me up, but I couldn’t stay there, so I went to another neighbor’s. I was really scared; I’m convinced I almost died,” he said.
“Apparently someone called in a false alarm to the fire department, so a small bobcat went through and plowed a path down my street on Wednesday morning, so I was able to follow that path to get home. That night, my wife Chelsea was making dinner, and I looked up and saw stress cracks all over the ceiling, so we called the fire department to ask what we should do. They told us they couldn’t remove the snow, but we should evacuate the house, so we went to my parents’ house.
“We decided to go back and try to get the snow off our roof,” Ciminelli continued. “I had a couple of guys helping and we got most of it off, but Chelsea said it seemed pretty cold in the house. Turns out our furnace is broken, so we’ve had no heat for the past 14-16 hours.
“And it could get worse. Rain is on the way, which will add more weight to the snow on the roof,” he added. “I think the news said there were 30 roof collapses last night alone, and there have been 13 deaths reported so far. And it’s supposed to warm up to 40-50 degrees, so it’s going to flood. It’s bad, really bad.”
Fellow Cheektowaga resident Liz Johnson had similar issues with snow, but made it safely back to the Buffalo airport late Monday night following the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling, where she qualified for the ESPN finals of the PBA Cheetah Championship presented by PBA Bowling Challenge Mobile Game, followed by a promotional engagement in Las Vegas. She made it home without incident but knowing heavy snow was on its way, immediately headed to the closest hardware store to buy a new snow blower.
“All of the snow blowers were gone, and by the time I got back home, it was insane. It didn’t stop snowing for two days, so other that going outside to try to help others dig out, I haven’t been out of the house,” Johnson said Friday. “It’s unbelievable. I live about a half mile from (Ciminelli), and we got about 80 inches of snow, but you can go five miles north, and they got next to nothing. The bands of snow were amazing. There are areas with next to nothing, but then you run into a wall of snow.
“I’ve lived here for 15 years,” the native of nearby Niagara Falls said, “and I remember some pretty bad snowfalls before. But this is double the worse I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty, but it’s pretty crazy. And now we’re going to have to deal with the flooding.”
Two-time PBA titlist Jack Jurek, who lives in Lackawanna on Buffalo’s south side – right in the path of the worst of it – said he got home from work Monday night “just when it started, and it snowed steadily for the next 30 to 36 hours. The band of snow coming off the lake never moved.
“I was born and raised in Lackawanna,” the 50-year-old PBA50 Tour “rookie” said, “but I’ve never seen anything like this. The blizzard of ’77 was bad, but that one didn’t have as much snow. It just covered a bigger area. This time we got as much snow in two days as we normally get in a whole year.”
Other than being tired from shoveling, Jurek said “we’re getting low on milk, but otherwise we’re good, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to start warming up, so the snow is going to start melting. But now we’ll start worrying about flooding.”
Other PBA players who live in the area, but apparently were spared the worst of the weather, are John Szczerbinski, who lives on the north side of Buffalo; Buffalo resident Joe Ciccone and Brad Angelo, who lives northeast of Buffalo in Lockport.