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Oakfield

January 26, 2023 - 7:00am
posted by Press Release in Oakfield, news, Elections.

Press release:

The Oakfield Republican Committee is looking for candidates to fill the following positions. All are for four (4) year terms:

  • Superintendent of Highways
  • Town Clerk
  • Councilpersons (2)

Interested persons should submit their letter of interest to:

Melissa M. Haacke, Secretary ORC 19 Bennett Ave. Oakfield, NY 14125, No later than, Feb. 8.

The Republican Committee meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Feb 9, at the Oakfield Community & Government Center, 3219 Drake St., Oakfield.

January 21, 2023 - 5:36pm
posted by Press Release in Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, news.

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Press release:

Starting on February 1st, children from ages 3 and up can sign up to read at home to win prizes and collect charms at the library, during the month of February.

When the children register for the Haxton Memorial Library Winter Reading Program they will receive a "Readopoly" Board and a wristband.  For each task they complete they will earn a charm to put on their wristband.  A task is completed when all of the activities on the spaces are filled up in each color group. In addition, there are other activities on the board where they can earn tickets for the Grand Prize basket, including attending a library program on Thursday nights.

The library is also having a "Build Your Own Snowman" contest for children ages 3 and up as part of the Winter Read. Participants will share a photograph of their creation with the library staff and the judges will pick a winner. The winner will receive a Target gift card. Snowman builders are encouraged to be as creative as they want, using any materials or ideas that would make it a special work of snow art.

The program ends on February 28 and everyone is encouraged to pick up their gameboard and contest information and get reading!

To register or for more information about the Winter Reading Program or any of the programs held at the Haxton Memorial Library, please call 585-948-9900 or stop by the library at 3 North Pearl St. in Oakfield.

The Haxton Memorial Library, a member of the Nioga Library System, is located at 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield and provides residents a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website at www.HaxtonLibrary.org.

 

January 12, 2023 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Oakfield, Alabama.

Mone N. Wiggins, 24, of Dana Street, Rochester, is charged with grand larceny 4th, conspiracy 5th, and criminal impersonation. Yathil Karis K. Lay-Rivera, 24, of Grand Avenue, Rochester, is charged with grand larceny 4th and conspiracy 5th.  Aniyah E. Kendrick, 18, of Sullivan Street, Rochester, is charged with conspiracy 5th.  On. Jan. 6, Sheriff's deputies responded to Ulta Beauty in Batavia Towne Center after receiving a report of a larceny in progress. When officers arrived, Wiggins, Lay-Rivera, and Kendrick were allegedly seen walking to a vehicle with "bags full of stolen items." The three were taken into custody and issued appearance tickets. Assisting in the investigation were Deputy Morgan Ewert, Deputy Nicholas Chamoun, and Deputy Jacob Kipler.

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Joe Cortez

Joe Andrew Cortez, 40, no permanent address, is charged with rape 1st and rape 3rd. Cortez is accused of forcing a person under the age of 17 to have sexual intercourse on Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. at a location on Lewiston Road, Batavia. Cortez was arrested on Jan. 6 and ordered held in the Genesee County Jail.

Tommy Lee Mobley III, of Main Street, Le Roy, is charged with attempted criminal possession of a weapon 4th. Mobley is accused of attempting to purchase a firearm from a business on West Main Street, Batavia, on Sept. 27 at 9 a.m., while being a person prohibited by law from making a firearm purchase. Mobley was taken into custody on Jan. 6, processed at the Genesee County Jail, and released on an appearance ticket.

Vicki Lee Showler, 51, of Lewiston Road, Alabama, is charged with petit larceny. Showler is accused of shoplifting at the Dollar General store on North Main Street, Oakfield, on Jan. 4 at 8:24 p.m. Showler was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released.

Tatiana Makarevic, 55, of Maple Road, Alabama, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and moving from lane unsafely.  Deputy Jacob Kipler and Deputy Jeremiah Gechell responded to a report of an erratic driver on Route 77 in the Town of Pembroke on Dec. 15 at 8:48 p.m. Makarevic was taken into custody and processed at the Genesee County Jail. She was released on appearance tickets.

Jocolby Sherod Wallace, 34, of Bryan Street, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon 4th, aggravated unlicensed operation 3rd, and uninspected motor vehicle. Wallace was stopped on Jan. 6 at 8:52 p.m. on Route 33 in Byron by Deputy David Moore. During the traffic stop, Wallace was allegedly found in possession of a stun gun while being previously convicted of a crime. He was arraigned and ordered held without bail.

Theresa Lorraine Fisher, 34, of Royal Parkway, South Lockport, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs and aggravated unlicensed operation 2nd. Fisher was stopped on Jan. 1 at 5:45 p.m. on Route 77 in Pembroke by Deputy Morgan Ewert. She was issued an appearance ticket.

January 11, 2023 - 2:49pm
posted by Press Release in Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, news.

Press release:

Are you challenged by your computer? Do you think an app is only something you have before your main course at dinner? No worries! Technology help is on the way at the Haxton Memorial Library thanks to Nioga Mobile Tech.

We understand technology can be intimidating, so you are invited to come to meet Sara, a Nioga Mobile Tech Trainer, to make using technology a fun and educational experience. Sara will be at the Haxton Memorial Library on Wednesday, February 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to explain “Internet Basics”. On Wednesday, March 29 from 1 to 3 p.m., she offers “Gaga for Google” to explain the ins and outs of using Google to search for things on the Internet.

These free sessions are offered through Nioga Mobile Tech, a technology training unit serving the libraries in Niagara, Orleans, and Genesee Counties. Nioga Mobile Tech provides online access to job search resources as well as federal, state, and local E-government resources.

As these are in-person classes, space is limited so everyone is encouraged to call the library to register.

Nioga Mobile Tech also offers On-Demand courses on their YouTube channel. These courses are all ready for anyone to click the link to be taken directly to the course. They are easy to follow, and you can pause the session at any time. The full list of class offerings can be found online under the Courses heading at www.niogamobile.tech.

To register or for more information about these classes or any of the programs held at the Haxton Memorial Library, please call 585-948-9900.

The Haxton Memorial Library, a member of the Nioga Library System, is located at 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield and provides residents a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website at www.HaxtonLibrary.org.

 

January 9, 2023 - 3:32pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Winter Storm Elliott, Lamb Farms, weather, Oakfield.

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As much of December’s snow has melted away and people’s memories are tucked into winter storm history books, there are folks still assessing the damage caused to the county’s biggest industry: agriculture.

To quote Kendra Lamb of Lamb Farms, the loss was “unprecedented” in terms of milk that had to be dumped due to trucks not being able to navigate the snow-blown roads beginning that Friday, Dec. 23.

All four of Lamb’s operations in Oakfield, Albion, Wilson and Ohio had to dump milk — 46,000 gallons — from milk plants that had frozen from loss of power and then milk trucks out of commission.

“It wasn’t safe for the milk trucks to travel,” she said. “We let it run down the drain into the fields, into the manure lagoons. I think we had prepared ourselves for the possibility; we weren’t going to ask milk trucks to risk driving.”

In addition to the issue of milk product loss, there were the calves, buried in calf hutches that had to be dug out after being pummeled by driving wind and snow. It was all hands on deck, digging down to get to the hutches below, she said.

Some calves suffered frostbite and recovered, though 10 did not, and were humanely euthanized.

“The calf hutches were completely buried in snow. We were concerned our calves were suffocating. We poked holes in the snow, trying to keep them alive,” Lamb said. “We will look into insurance for the milk beyond what the cooperative would cover. We were just so thankful all our people stayed safe. I was very afraid someone could get hurt. For a number of our animals, we were thankful.”

The community has been “incredible,” she said, and everyone jumped into the fray to help out. Those who were stuck at the farm in the snow were shoveled out so that they could in turn, help to free the animals, she said.

Out of 500 calves, “we got 200 out in whiteout conditions,” she said.

The next order of business was to relocate all of those animals to a warm, safe space, as they were snow-covered and wet, with high chances of getting sick. Over the course of several 12-hour days, they were filled with removing animals, removing snow, and putting animals back into a warmer space, and repeat.

“We were stuffing calves everywhere,” she said. “I woke up and asked, ‘where are they?’ The calf facility was ground zero. This one was hopefully a generational storm. We’re breathing a little easier. I think some of us will have some trauma. This was hard. We were scared for the safety of our people and animals.”

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Of her 13 years with the farm, they were “the worst days of my life,” she said. Post-storm duty included ensuring as much consistency — which cows like — as possible and to keep floors stable with grit to prevent slipping on icy surfaces and maintaining a regular milking schedule.

“Overall, it was a hugely impactful storm for us,” she said. “It was very, very scary; it was just exhausting, physically and emotionally. We won’t be forgetting this any time soon.”

Lamb isn’t expecting to receive any reimbursement from the state and said the farm will be submitting a claim to its insurance company, though they “aren’t sure about our chances of success.”

A phone call to the Genesee County Farm Bureau for comment and storm-related statistics was referred to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner, and phone calls to and emails sent there were not returned.

Lamb Farms’ social media posts illustrate how the property went from a happy “Merry Xmas” photo of a colorfully lit tractor on Dec. 4 to the snow-engulfed calf hutches later that month (above), to a more serene sunset over bare roads more recently.

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The sun has set on the day, and things are starting to look a little more normal after the brutal blizzard hit on Friday. We were very hard-hit by the storm, and it has been a rough stretch for our farm team. The hard work and dedication of our team and many others willing to step in and help out has been heart-warming and so very appreciated! We end the day tired, physically and mentally, but beyond thankful for each one who has gone above and beyond to help in our time of need! merry xmas lamb farms.

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Talk about a sight for sore eyes! The blizzard that hit western NY before Christmas was especially hard on our calf facility. The 500 calves in hutches all had to be dug out and relocated while we cleared snow and re-set hutches. (Before pictures included for reference) While we'll still be dealing with residual effects of the storm for a while, it's nice to see things returning to normal.

Our farm team did an awesome job caring for our animals and clearing snow in the worst conditions, with the help of some very kind friends and family! We're grateful and relieved that our people and animals stayed safe during the storm ... and hope we don't see another one like that for a very long time! Photos from Lamb Farms.

January 2, 2023 - 6:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, pembroke, Alabama, Le Roy, Bethany, Alexander, Pavilion, Oakfield.

Jose A. Rivera, 36, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st, attempted promoting prison contraband 1st, and Ida M. Vanorden, 36, of Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with conspiracy 5th. Rivera and Vandorden are accused of conspiracy along with an unknown male, to introduce contraband into the Genesee County Jail. The contraband was intercepted by corrections officers on Dec. 26. Rivera is accused of violating a stay-away order of protection. Both Rivera and Vanorden were issued appearance tickets.  The investigation is ongoing, and deputies are attempting to identify the third suspect. Any person who may have additional information are requested to contact Deputy Nicholas Charmoun at (585) 345-3000, ext. 3258

Ledeja K. Wright, 32, of Maple Street, Batavia, is charged with torture/injure animal/fail to provide sustenance. Wright is accused of leaving a dog in an apartment after moving out and failing to provide sustenance to the animal. The incident was reported Nov. 30. Wright was arrested Dec. 15. She was arraigned in City Court and released. The dog is at the Animal Shelter. 

Vicki Lynne Manns, 52, of Brookville Road, Alexander, is charged with menacing 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon 4th, assault 3rd, and harassment 2nd.  Manns is accused of throwing a tray at a person, causing an injury. She is also accused of pointing a firearm at the same person. She was issued an appearance ticket.Robert L. Drennen is charged with criminal mischief 3rd. Drennen is accused of causing damage to a residence in the City of Batavia on Dec. 23. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Julie R. Richardson, 31, of Batavia,  is charged with grand larceny 4th, petit larceny, conspiracy 5th and tampering with evidence. Richardson is accused of stealing from a vehicle on South Main Street, Batavia, on Nov. 16. Richardson was arrested after an investigation by Officer Nicole McGinnis.

Andrew A. Crimes, 50, of West Main Street Road,  Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st and aggravated family offense. Crimes is accused of violating an order of protection by contacting the protected party on Dec. 9. He was arraigned in City Court and released.

Deanna L. Yox, 37, of Clifford Street, Buffalo, is charged with petit larceny. Yox is accused of stealing from a business in Batavia in February 2020. She was arrested Dec. 21 following an investigation by officers Felicia Martinez and Wesley Rissinger. Yox was released on an appearance ticket.

Malinda J. Falk, 41, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd and criminal obstruction of breathing/blood circulation. Falk is accused of attacking another individual on Dec. 17 at a location on East Main Street, Batavia. Falk was arraigned in City Court and released on her own recognizance. 

David L. Weaver, 32, of Atlanta, Illinois, is charged with harassment 2nd. Weaver is accused of striking another person during a disturbance on Dec. 10. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Dustin T. Forkell, 31, of Holley, is charged with petit larceny and false impersonation. Forkell is accused of stealing property from a local business on Dec. 11 and fleeing. He was located at another business in the Town of Batavia, at which time he allegedly provided a false name to officers. He was arrested, processed at Batavia PD, and issued an appearance ticket. The incident was investigated by officers Wesly Rissinger and Megan Crossett

An 18-year-old of Washington Avenue, Batavia, is charged with assault 3rd and criminal mischief. An 18-year-old resident is accused of attacking another person on Dec. 14 with an iPad, causing an injury. The youth was arraigned in City Court and released. 

Brittanee J. Hooten, of State Street, in Batavia, was arrested on two bench warrants after having failed to appear on an appearance ticket on prior arrests. Hooten was arraigned on Dec. 14 in City Court and released. 

Karrie A. Morrow, 40, of Summit Street, Batavia, was arrested on several outstanding Bench Warrants. Morrow was arrested on Dec. 14 after she was located during an unrelated incident. The warrants stem from several petit larceny cases at local businesses. Morrow was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision.

Jeffrey M. VanEpps, 45, of Albion, is charged with criminal mischief and attempted assault 3rd. VanEpps was allegedly involved in a disturbance at a business on West Main Street on Dec. 14. He was arraigned in City Court and released.

Jacob A. Richards, 34, of Rochester, is charged with possession of a forged instrument 1st and grand larceny 4th. Richards allegedly passed a forged check at a local bank. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held on bail.

Terrance L. Falk, 24, of North Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief 4th and assault 3rd. Falk was allegedly involved in a disturbance on an unspecified date in the City of Batavia. After initially fleeing the scene, according to police, he was located and taken into custody without incident. He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Byron K. Bell, 53, of Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property 3rd, aggravated unlicensed operation 3rd and speeding. Bell was stopped on Dec. 11 in the City of Batavia by Officer Josh Girvin and Officer Bryan Moscicki. Bell was allegedly driving a stolen vehicle while on a suspended license. He was arraigned in City Court and jailed.

Harry R. Silliman, 58, of Batavia, is charged with trespass. Silliman was allegedly on property on Maple Street without permission. He was arrested and issued an appearance ticket.

Zakara R. Jackson, age 19, of Trumbull Parkway, Batavia, is charged with bail jumping 2nd and failure to appear. Jackson was arrested on a warrant on Dec. 8 He was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision.

Daquan J. Butler, 26, of Ross Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny.  Butler is accused of stealing an iPhone 13 from another person on Ross Street on Dec. 3. He was arraigned in City Court and released.

Raymond Lunday Kelley, of Oak Street, Batavia, is charged with a false written statement. Kelley allegedly provided law enforcement with a false written statement related to an incident reported at Batavia Downs at 11:59 p.m., Dec. 16. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Douglas Wayne Logsdon, 74, of Big Tree Road, Pavilion, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment 2nd. Logsdon allegedly threw items at a person while a child was present during an incident reported at 5:41 p.m., Dec. 16 at a location on Big Tree Road, Pavilion. Logsdon was arraigned in Town of Pavilion Court and released.

Rachel B. Solomon, 30, of North Lake Road, Pembroke, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd and harassment 2nd. Solomon is accused of violating an order of protection by harassing an individual at 1 p.m. on Dec. 22. She was arraigned in Town of Pembroke Court and ordered held without bail. Solomon is also charged with aggravated criminal contempt, assault 3rd, and endangering the welfare of a child. The charges stem from an incident reported at 2:45 a.m., Jan. 2, at a location on Meadville Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation. Solomon was jailed pending arraignment.

Joseph Michael Morelli, 54, of Orchard Street, Oakfield, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Morelli was allegedly found to be intoxicated at 2:02 p.m., Dec. 14, while at the Genesee County Probation Department on Main Street, Batavia, and arrested by Deputy Jonathan Dimming. Morelli was released to a third party on an appearance ticket. 

Adam Joseph Pape, 35, of Morrow Road, Pavilion, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation, driving without an interlock device, and drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle on a public highway. Pape was stopped at 8:11 p.m., Dec. 30, by Deputy Zachary Hoy and released on an appearance ticket.

Nia Hanevin Spring, 23, of Griffin Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd and grand larceny 4th. Spring was arrested on Dec. 30, processed at the Genesee County Jail, arraigned in Town of Alabama Court, and released under supervision. 

Ronald Charles Inzinna, 54, of Le Roy, is charged with criminal mischief and harassment 2nd. Inzinna is accused of subjecting another person to unwanted physical contact and preventing that person from contacting 9-1-1 during an incident reported at 6 p.m., Dec. 30, at a location on East Main Road, Le Roy.  Inzinna was arraigned in Town of Stafford Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Arthur James Felski, 45, of Tonawanda Indian Reservation, is charged with harassment 2nd. Felski was charged following an investigation into an incident reported at 3:25 p.m., Jan. 1, in Basom. He was arraigned in the Genesee County Centralized Arraignment Court and released on his own recognizance.

December 31, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Oakfield, Winter Storm Elliott, weather.

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Ever since the Christmas weekend blizzard, there have been stories of rescues, heroism, movie-making camaraderie, generosity and trust amongst strangers.

For Susan Zeliff — who with husband Peter Jr. opened up a warming shelter during the three-day storm — there was another story in her mind that certainly captured the holiday spirit.

“I feel a lot of the thought I had was, it has a lot of similarities to the Mary and Joseph story,” Zeliff said Friday. “Here are these people seeking refuge, to find a place to sleep.That scenario crossed my mind a lot.”

Mary and husband Joseph, arguably one of the most well-known stories in the Bible (first chapter of Matthew), could not find shelter on their journey, and ended up finding a manger for rest. Hundreds of strangers traveling to see family and friends found themselves on a similar journey of being in need of warmth, comfort and a place to rest their heads.

Dozens of those travelers ended up at the “GOOSE,” a community center in the heart of Oakfield. As last Friday (Dec. 23) wore on, members of Oakfield Fire Hall had been besieged by motorists stuck in the blizzard, and Ed Spence, the department’s chaplain, asked if there was anything he could do to help. Someone suggested using The GOOSE as a warming shelter.

Spence contacted Peter Friday, and his reply was, “give me five minutes.” They were soon on their way to transforming the Main Street center into a shelter by moving tables and bringing in food and drinks.

“We were getting ready for the influx of what we thought was about to happen,” Spence said. “Pete and I were meeting them at the door, welcoming them. They came, and they just kept coming.”

When the flow of visitors stopped, there were 60 people and a dog at the site, Susan Zeliff said. She credits her husband for taking “a good chunk of the responsibility” for these strangers in need of a safe place to stay, and Spence, plus a community ready to assist with homemade and packaged foods, pillows, blankets, and coloring books for the children.

Two residents graciously — and deliciously — baked bread, with one woman making 12 loaves and the other one adding pasta to her bread. The aroma made Zeliff want to take it home, she joked; it was that fragrantly mouth-watering.

“The whole community kind of rallied together,” she said. “We did soup for lunch, and thankfully we had gotten a shipment of milk so there was cereal for breakfast. I was not too worried since we had the food pantry. And people were reaching out to us.”

A common thread amongst the travelers, per others who have spoken about their experiences, was also true at the GOOSE, Susan said: most people were of international descent, including India, Japan and China, and many who did not speak English. Spence added that there was usually one person per family group that served as interpreter, and communication was not a big problem.

Some Muslims took solace in the back of a room to pray, and there was a lot of gratitude throughout the three-day ordeal, he said.

People wiled away the time charging their phones, talking, checking the weather and getting in touch with those that were waiting for them on the other end of their trip. Despite the circumstances and odds for anger and frustration to rule the day, it wasn’t like that at all, Spence said.

“It was wonderful, they were smiling, and they were extremely polite,” he said. “I asked people to stand up and introduce themselves. There was a lot of laughing and joking, believe it or not.”

As a retired firefighter of 14 years, he has seen a lot of weather events, with this now being “the worst I’ve ever seen.” As with the Zeliffs, he was impressed with the response of the community and volunteer responders.

“I can’t say enough about the fire departments in Oakfield and Alabama (and throughout Genesee County),” he said. “And I can’t say enough about the emergency manager Tim Yaeger. He did a fantastic job.”

Spence’s own Friday evening got off to a rocky start. He picked up his wife Wendy from her job at United Memorial Medical Center, and got her to her mother’s house in Oakfield; however, he found it tough going from there. Driving with his head out the window, he drove “two miles an hour to get not even a mile,” he said, and that took 40 minutes. At one point, his truck got stuck in the snow and he needed to be pulled out.

Most of his holiday weekend was spent as a liaison between the 60 travelers and Oakfield fire personnel. When some people tried to leave in their vehicles, he told them point blank: if you go out there, you’re going to die. Blunt, yes, but he felt those people needed a simple truth.

While it may seem as though the stress and inconvenience would have wrenched anyone’s nerves, people stepped up to the circumstances, he said.

“People made the best out of a bad situation, people were phenomenal,” he said. “It was a really positive event.”

Likewise, Susan believes the weekend was a good lesson in the universal language of kindness.

“Just for people to take care of people,  it doesn't matter. Your culture doesn't matter. Your skin type doesn't matter. Even your language,” she said. “They couldn't understand us, we didn't understand them, but we made it work.”

Photo of an online post from The GOOSE Community Center explaining that "this is what the lunch looks like for about 50 people hanging at The GOOSE in the blizzard." The canned goods were available from the center's food pantry.  

December 29, 2022 - 7:55am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Oakfield, Winter Storm Elliott, weather.

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It took a few days for Thera Sanchez to process her holiday weekend before she felt able to describe it.

After all, she and partner Pavel Belov hadn't expected events to unfold quite as they did since the unrelenting storm blew in Friday and hovered over their Oakfield residence and nearby roadways. While they remained at home, hundreds of motorists were trying to navigate unknown territory after being moved off the Thruway Friday.

Without knowledge of what they were driving into, many of those motorists got stuck in piles of windblown snow with little to no visibility of what surrounded them. Around 7:30 p.m., the couple noticed two sets of headlights out on the road, Sanchez said.

"We kept checking to see if we could see them until about 10 p.m. We got dressed up in our hunting gear and went to help them. The moment we stepped off of the porch, the snow was stinging my face. I put my glasses on to keep the snow away from my eyes, but the air was so cold it was hard to keep them open," she said. "Both of us, with flashlights and shovels in our hands, we find the road. We walk towards the headlights. We see the two. Then I saw three. Then I saw four. There were seven. We went up to each one and invited all into our home."

By last count, they had 11 strangers in their house. A friend stayed in her car because she had two dogs with her, and the Belov-Sanchez couple has three dogs of their own, she said. She and Pavel brought her food, treats and water and kept a check on her throughout the weekend.

Meanwhile, others just celebrated getting out of their vehicles.

"Some cried and some were just so happy to stand. We had friends from India, the Philippines, South Carolina, Maryland, and a couple were local. Whether they were heading home or to family Christmas, their trip was longer than expected. They were stranded," Sanchez said. "There was one guy who was in deep trouble. We almost didn't see his white van in the snow, but Pavel did, and went back for him. He had run out of gas and was sitting there for five hours in the cold, with just a hoodie, sweatpants and slippers on."

Their guests stayed with them untill Sunday morning, when roads had been cleaned and Storm Elliott finally retreated from the area. As people often do in the face of a crisis, Belov and Sanchez offered hospitality and cared for their guests for the duration. They didn't even feel the toll until it was over, Sanchez said.

"Hosting that many people with the stress of Christmas -- and then the stress of it being canceled -- was intense. Yet, we still had a blast together and toasted on Christmas Eve," she said. "We didn't feel it until everyone was gone. It's been an emotional rollercoaster since."

Stranded travelers

They weren't the only ones to feel the weight of the situation. What began as a fun trip to see the Bare Naked Ladies ended as an emotional breakdown of relief for traveler Angela Saiz and her passenger.

Saiz, of Rockville, MD, and friend Stephanie Argoe of South Carolina were in Toronto to see the concert last Thursday and had planned to return Friday morning. Flights were canceled due to the storm, so they decided to rent a car and drive.

As hundreds of travelers learned on Friday, their trip on the Thruway would get abruptly cut off when a travel ban was issued and a large portion of the Thruway closed.

“As soon as we crossed the border, conditions changed so quickly,” Saiz said Monday to The Batavian. “I couldn't believe that I didn't get some kind of Amber Alert like I get. Nothing came through on my phone that said travel ban, no driving, seek refuge, nothing.

“My rental car was doing just fine until, it was just, the whiteout hit so quick,” she said.

Their journey had been diverted from the Thruway onto side roads through Genesee County. Saiz was navigating down drift-covered rural roads with patches of visibility until there was nothing to see through her windshield. They got stuck in a snow drift and a good samaritan pulled them out, but by that time, conditions were deteriorating and “it was not safe to drive,” she said.

They called for help at 3:40 p.m. Friday, and Genesee County dispatch told them to hang tight and that someone would be there in a couple of hours. They also called AAA dispatch, which told them no one was allowed to drive into that area.

Meanwhile, the women waited in the car — thankfully with a full tank of gas they estimated would provide heat for at least 24 hours — but without water or food.

Saiz emphasized that she’s no newbie to the world of travel, having been a flight attendant and flying for her career some 200 times a year, and her husband is a commercial landscaper, so she’s also aware of how to deal with snow.

What she wasn’t prepared for, though, were the complete whiteouts and radio silence after two hours turned into several. They were stranded at the corner of Lewiston and Lockport roads.

“Every three hours we would call dispatch just to get an update. My frustration was that communication was horrific. All I wanted was the truth … I just wanted to know, do I need to mentally prepare to be in this car all night?” she said. “About after midnight, all of a sudden, we could see other cars. There was a car next to us, we could see lights and flashers on other cars. You couldn't tell how close or far away they were. And so, finally, we saw two people coming toward us that we thought were emergency workers. And I rolled my window down, and we both started crying. And they said, ‘we live across the street; we're happy to bring you in.’”

Generous hosts

The couple, known as Pavel and Thera, said they lived across the street and offered shelter for the two women, who replied that someone was coming for them.

“They’re not coming,” Thera said, explaining that they had been listening to a scanner.

Still, two women going to a stranger’s house seemed daunting, Saiz said, and their nervousness made them a bit hesitant. Then they saw other vehicles emptying out their occupants that were going to the house, so Saiz and Argoe decided to join them.

That Lockport Road couple, Pavel and Thera, offered refuge for 11 people, all of who stayed with them Friday evening throughout Saturday and that night.

There was the couple from Pennsylvania, just 30 minutes away from a cousin they were going to see; newlyweds from Delaware heading to Toronto; and another couple from Dallas, Texas. There was a single man from Spencerport, not even wearing warm clothing or snow boots in lieu of slipper socks, who was trying to get to The Rez. He would have surely frozen to death out there, Saiz said.

They all made the best of it and took in the host’s generous offerings of food, drink and bedding, Saiz said.

“They gave us water, offered us food, I think we were all just a little in shock and grateful to be alive at this point,” she said.

Eventually, firefighters — who were making rescues throughout the weekend and battling the same blinding snow conditions themselves — made it to the house and said they’d return to take people to Oakfield Fire Hall.

They offered to take the stranded travelers’ keys and move their vehicles to Oakfield-Alabama school’s parking lot, which had just been plowed. All of the visitors opted to do that, except for the one woman who remained in her car with her dog.

No one ended up returning that night, and the visitors stayed put. 

Welcomed reprieve

By Sunday morning, the sky was blue, and the roads seemed clear. But no one had returned with the car keys, Saiz said, so they waited some more.

She had inadvertently left her medication in the car and, after another long period of time, called dispatch again, saying that she really needed her meds.

When Genesee County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Henning showed up, he was a great help, she said.

“He was amazing; he got us to our car, and he cleaned off the windshields for us,” she said.

“I got home at 5 p.m. Sunday,” she said. “My family waited to have Christmas with me. It was quite the experience.

“When I walked into my home and got upstairs, I just wept uncontrollably and sobbed, holding my children, my husband, so incredibly thankful. I'm emotional, just talking about it,” she said. “I've never, ever felt that I might not make it home. I've never been in a situation where I felt that I actually thought I might die. And I felt that way in the car.

“These people were angels and a godsend for bringing us in and feeding us and providing bedding … we had places to sleep. And it was amazing and a miracle. They're good people, and I'm so appreciative, and my family is appreciative of what this couple did,” she said.

Submitted Photo of Thera Sanchez, back row left, and Pavel Belov, back row, right, with Angela Saiz, to the right of Thera, and Stephanie Argoe in front of her holding a dog, along with the other travelers that got a rescue from the Oakfield couple this past weekend.

December 29, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Alabama, news, weather, Winter Storm Elliott.

Heading out on one of his search and rescue missions during the blizzard on Friday, Joshua Finn said he had two fears.

That they would find somebody dead in a car.  

Or that he wouldn't make it home, himself.

He came close to both tragic outcomes, he thought, around 1 a.m. on Saturday when he and another volunteer firefighter from Oakfield came across a pickup truck stuck on Judge Road. Its flashers were barely flashing, so he knew it had been there a long time. The battery was nearly dead.  Inside, they found a 60-year-old man and his 27-year-old daughter.

"They were both hypothermic, and they were completely saturated," Finn said. "The snow was blowing through the cracks in the vehicle."

With great effort, Finn, another EMT and other volunteers got them out of the pickup and into a rescue truck and started the drive back to the Oakfield Fire Hall. It was a scary trip, he said. They weren't sure they would make it back in zero visibility conditions.

"Colin and I couldn't get the interior dome lights to shut off because the door button was frozen," Finn said. "We couldn't see much because there was a light inside the cab. We had to have the windows down to look out the windows to drive. Colin says, 'Finn, go left, Finn, go right,' and we're going at one mile an hour. I got frost nip on my ears from because all I had was my firefighting hood. I was shivering by the time we got back with them."

Miraculously -- County Manager Matt Landers has called it a Christmas miracle -- there are no known fatalities in Genesee County as a result of Winter Storm Elliott, which hit the area with a ferocity unknown since 1977.

A perfect storm
The dangers of the storm were exacerbated by a Thruway Authority that shut down the I-90 with no plan to send travelers on safe routes and with Google and Apple map technology ill-equipped to warn drivers of dangerous weather conditions and send them on routes that would take them around the hazardous roads. 

Landers observed during the storm that in a situation that might have otherwise involved a handful of local people getting trapped on snow-covered roads, there were hundreds of cars that got stuck.

More than 700 people, most of them not from New York, wound up in one of 11 warming centers, and it's unclear how many others were taken in by residents who opened their doors when strangers came knocking during the storm.

The task of rescuing motorists fell to quickly assembled teams of deputies, highway crews, and volunteer firefighters.

And with winds over 35 mph and temperatures well below zero, and a forecast of storm conditions persisting for at least 48 hours, search and rescue teams didn't have the luxury of waiting until daylight or until the weather cleared.  They had to head out in the dead of night with the resources available.

Gary Patnode is both the deputy emergency management coordinator for Genesee County and the Chief of the Alabama Volunteer Fire Department.  He was right in the thick of it when the storm hit.

He praised dispatchers for helping triage stranded motorists.

Those with full gas tanks were told to keep their engines running and wait unless they could see a house nearby they could safely get to.  When they had less than a quarter tank of gas or a medical condition, they became a priority to rescue.

Among the medical conditions being reported -- "trouble breathing." 

Patnode found that understandable. You're out there not knowing how, when, or if you will be rescued.

"I think that was a direct result of anxiety, you know, from being in an unfamiliar area, it's pitch black out because there are no streetlights out there, and that snow is blowing," Patnode said.

"Every car, every window that we cleaned off, I just held my breath, you know, hoping that I didn't find a body in there," Patnode said. "That was the big thing."

It takes a village
While the brunt of the storm fell on Oakfield and Alabama, and volunteer departments in those communities had a total of more than 30 volunteers participate in search and rescue operations, nearly every department in the county sent either personnel or equipment, and usually both, such as Le Roy, Alexander, and Bethany, to the northwest quadrant to help out, along with Genesee Snopackers.

On the paid side of responders, there were Sheriff's deputies, personnel from Orleans and Livingston counties, State Police, State Parks, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and Batavia city police and fire departments.

In Oakfield and Alabama, community residents also pitched in, either by offering shelter, delivering supplies, moving snow, or cooking meals. The Oakfield Fire Hall became a warming shelter and housed several dozen people during the storm. There were so many travelers emotionally affected by the storm and being stranded that Downing took their phone numbers to follow up with them after they returned to their homes.

"We are still contacting them to find out how they're doing and that they're okay, you know, checking on their mental health," Downing said. "It's traumatizing for a lot of these people to be stranded and then have to be rescued. We want to make sure that they're okay."

During the weekend, stranded travelers also needed to be fed, so the community fed them.  One firefighter's wife baked her Christmas ham and brought it in.  Wives and girlfriends showed up to make breakfast.  Meals and supplies were delivered from Batavia. H.P. Hood donated dairy products. 

At one point, Oakfield Fire Chief Sean Downing was worried about being able to feed all these people for a couple of days and soon, he realized the community was taking care of it.

When Downing had to get home to check on his wife, Jeremy Yasses plowed his driveway so he could park.  Another community resident made sure the driveways of other volunteers were cleared so they could easily drop in and check on their families.

"People would come up to us and go, 'Oh, if I could just brush my teeth,'" Downing recalled. "then William Sturgeon thought to himself, he says, 'You know what, I have kids. We go to the dentist and they always give us toothpaste and toothbrushes, and dental floss,' so he ran home, which wasn't far from the Fire Hall, and came back with about 20 toothbrushes and the people were ecstatic that they could at least brush their teeth."

It's the little things, Downing said, that make a big difference.

"They say that it takes a village," said Downing.  "Well, it's more than the village. It was the entire town and village of Oakfield that was calling and coming together and getting us whatever we needed to be able to take care of these people. They understood what was going on and what we were going through, and they wanted to make sure that any little bit that they could do, they did."

The department had hosted a Christmas party for its members a couple of days before the storm, and there were still wrapped presents for children under the tree, so the kids at the shelter had Christmas presents to open.

Saving lives
The children were kept in the department's second-floor rec room. Downing wanted to shield them from any potential life-saving situations in the main bay of the fire hall.

"I think we had a total of three or four hypothermic patients throughout the event," Downing said. "The one gentleman that Josh was talking about was our first patient, and the medics came up to me at one time and said, 'We do not think, based on what we're seeing on the monitors and whatnot, and what we're talking about, he may not make it. But again, he pulled through. Once he warmed up, everything started to change for him. He was one of our first patients in the building, and he was the last one to leave our building after the event."

To treat hypothermic patients in a field-hospital situation, medics stripped them of all their cold, wet clothes and wrapped them in blankets.  A couple of firefighters' wives kept supplying warm blankets from the department's clothes dryer. 

Finn doesn't remember where he had seen it done before or where he got the idea from, but he suggested taking hand-warming packets and taping them to IV bags, so the fluid being given to patients was warmed.

While there were "official" warming shelters at fire halls -- such as Indian Falls, besides Oakfield, and schools, such as Elba -- there were several unofficial warming shelters, such as Alabama Hotel.  Grace Baptist Church in Batavia also opened as a warming shelter. Patnode listed off five or six homes that took in six, seven, and eight stranded travelers and one resident on Macomber Road had at least 50 people sheltering in his garage. 

"It was just remarkable how the community came together," Patnode said. "You know, even for us as an organization, when you're working with a volunteer fire department, there are so many different personalities, and everybody just sets that stuff aside and just works together."


See also: Stranded travelers offered a warm home and holiday hospitality by Oakfield couple


Gratitude
There was no shortage of gratitude among the travelers who were rescued. 

Downing noted that many of the department's guests pitched in and helped, cleaning up, shoveling snow, moving supplies as needed.

The boldest gesture of gratitude perhaps came from the first woman Finn rescued.

On Friday, as the storm began to roll in, he decided he couldn't stay at his job in Batavia. He had to get home to his family and his community.

As he drove toward Oakfield, he heard a call for a stuck vehicle with a woman finding it difficult to breathe.  He told dispatchers to keep the ambulance in Batavia, where it couldn't get stuck, while he checked it out.

He found a woman from Canada, with her daughter, having a panic attack.

He told her not to worry.  He told her to follow him to Oakfield, where there was a warming shelter.

He said the drive on Route 63 was difficult. The whiteout conditions were disorienting, and at one point, he went off the road and became stuck in a ditch himself.  

"You didn't know what was up or down," Finn said. "At one point, I was going two miles an hour, and I ended up in a ditch. The only reason why I got out, and it's no joke, I swear to God, I think what saved my life was a deputy named Richard Schildwaster came along with his truck and got me out."

When they got to the hall, the woman from Canada wanted to thank Finn in a big way. She offered him a piece of jewelry.

"She kept saying you saved my life," Finn said. "You guys, you saved my life. She tried to give me this 24-karat gold ring and put it in my hand and would not take it back and I'm like, 'I can't. I can't. This is what we do. I'm not taking your ring.'

"She was, 'you have to.' I'm like, 'It's okay. I didn't do anything. I just had you follow me.' I'm like, 'I can't take this from you.' And she's like, 'You have to.'

"So I dialed my wife. I said, 'talk to my wife' because my wife was not happy that I left Batavia to come to Oakfield, and I didn't tell her what I was doing until I got to the village, and I said, 'I'm in Oakfield. Don't be mad.' So I was like, 'Here, talk to my wife.'

"I don't even know what conversation they had, but it settled down my wife."

Submitted photos.  Top photo: Justin Cooper, Tera Williams, Joshua Finn, Chief Sean Downing, Assistant Chief Chad Williams, Buck Hilchey

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Near whiteout conditions outside Alabama Hotel.

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Sheriff's patrols and the Snopacker's groomer clearing roads and checking vehicles along the roadway. Oakfield Chief Sean Downing noted that one convoy that started out on South Pearl in Oakfield during the height of the blizzard Saturday morning took five hours to reach the Indian Falls Fire Hall.

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A Mercy EMS ambulance broke down in Oakfield at the start of the storm, stranding its medics, which turned out to be a blessing for the warming shelter at the Fire Hall, with trained medical personnel on hand during the storm event.

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Josh Finn and K-9 Frankie in a search and rescue convoy.  Finn and another medic joined the convoys so that if somebody needed medical attention, there was somebody on scene with the training to provide an evaluation.

December 27, 2022 - 7:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Alabama, news, weather, Winter Storm Elliott.

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The Batavian was out in Oakfield and Alabama today for follow-up stories for Winter Storm Elliott (watch for more coverage over the next day or so) and we stopped a few times for storm-related photos along Judge Road (Route 63).

Above, a snow-covered residence at Judge and Wight roads, Alabama.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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December 24, 2022 - 1:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news, Oakfield, Alabama, tim hens, Winter Storm Elliott.

So far, it might be classified as a Christmas miracle, said County Manager Matt Landers.

With dozens of people trapped in vehicles for hours and cars all around Oakfield and Alabama buried in up to five feet of snow, emergency crews have yet to uncover any fatalities.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said with hours of the storm yet to weather, and emergency responders working around the clock, he's still nervous about people's safety, but he, too, is hoping for a Christmas miracle.

Hens spent all night with County Highway workers running heavy loaders with big plows attached ahead of convoys of search and rescue crews, and he said the situation is the worst he's seen in his life.

"It is frustrating because we knew people really needed to help, and he just couldn't get to him," Hens said. "It seemed like no matter which way we went, whatever road we went down or whatever piece of equipment we took, it just was zero visibility. I mean, you could literally not see past the hood of your own car. Even though we had loaders with huge blades on them, and the Sheriff's were using MRAPs, the military vehicles that they've acquired, and we had tracked vehicles and groomers that are used for snowmobile trails and things like that, you just couldn't see where you're going. It was just extremely frustrating and scary."

Hens said in those conditions -- strong winds, zero visibility, 20 degrees below zero with windchill, a person outside without protective gear couldn't last long.

"You just can't see where you're going," Hens said. "It's disorienting. It's cold. The wind is ripping right through everything you've got on. Like I said, every little hair on your body accumulates ice and snow. If you didn't have goggles on, you're out of luck. The one time I jumped out (of my truck) to put a strap on a truck to pull somebody out, I forgot to put my goggles on, my eyelashes froze together. That was interesting."

While many people have been rescued, there's no way of knowing how many people haven't been rescued, hence the hope for a miracle. 

"I'm still relatively nervous about it because, I mean, there's still a lot of cars that have not been found yet," Hens said. "So there are still people in cars that have been there for a long time. There is the possibility that people got out of their cars and went looking for their own help, to a neighboring house or something like that and like I said, it is so disorienting. If you got out of your car last night, you wouldn't have known that there could have been a house 20 feet from you, and you wouldn't have seen it."

A large number of cars being located after getting stuck on Route 77, Route 63, Ledge Road, Judge Road, etc., have Canadian or out-of-state license plates. That's a factor of the state closing the Thruway and motorists relying on Google or Apple maps.  They got no warning that there was a travel ban in place or that a blizzard was passing over the very routes Google and Apple were suggesting.

"We probably would have had to have dealt with 30 or 40 cars, maybe, of our own people," Landers said. "But now we're having a couple of hundred cars. This is the GPS that was sending everybody right through Route 63, Route 77, right through the heart of the worst of the storm."

Landers said he isn't pointing a finger at the state.  He understands the need to close the Thruway, but there needs to be a better plan, and the state needs to lean on GPS mappers so that the maps do a better job of warning drivers of critically dangerous conditions.

"The solution can't simply be close the Thruway, and now it's a free for all into the small communities like Genesee County, Alabama and Oakfield," Landers said. "So it's something that I have reached out with the state about this morning. And again, it's not to be pointing the finger. It's just a matter that we have to learn from this because this situation was exasperated multiple times over by the fact that we get people from Los Angeles, people from Ohio, people from all over the place going on our back roads."

Hens said he hopes the governor's office will lean on Google to fix its technology.

"A lot of Canadians we talked to last night said, 'I was following my Google Map. I was following my Google Map, and I saw the red lines on the Google Map for traffic, and we just thought it was a traffic jam,'" Hens said. "They didn't know it was a lake effect snow band. And most people have never been in a lake effect snow band, so they didn't even know what it's like."

There are still hundreds of personnel -- volunteers and paid staff -- out on search and rescue missions.

Landers praised their dedication, hard work, and willingness to put their own safety at risk to help others.

He also marveled at all the residents and business owners who have been open to provide food and shelter to stranded travelers.  He said the county's human resources director, Anita Cleveland, took in a family of five overnight after the deputy who rescued them had become stuck in the snow.

Currently, there are 11 warming shelters open, and they are caring for 582 people.

"It's all hands on deck," Landers said.

And it's not over.

While the large lake effect snow band that hovered over Alabama and Oakfield most of the night has moved north, giving rescues some respite to get their work done, it's expected to drive south again, not only passing over those communities again but also into Batavia.

"The band is forecast to slowly move south across the county, I think, beginning about two or three o'clock this afternoon and will be kind of centered around the county, more of a traditional Airport, Batavia, kind of alignment for most of the afternoon and early evening from what the National Weather Service says," Hens said. "With snowfall rates of one to two inches an hour, so I would say from my experience, Darien, Pembroke, Alexander, and Batavia will take the brunt of it from a severity standpoint, and then it'll taper off. It looks like conditions will deteriorate for most of the center part of the county later this afternoon."

With the storm expected to last well into the night and perhaps into Sunday morning, Hens isn't just nervous about the safety of people out on the roads, he's nervous about remaining operations. People are tired and equipment is being heavily used.

"I'm just nervous that we're gonna have equipment breaking," Hens said. "You know, we've been using it pretty heavy now for 24 hours straight in some pretty wicked conditions. ... I'm nervous that someone's gonna get hurt or equipment is gonna get broken, and then we're going to have the band come back through, and we're going to be caught sideways a little bit, but fingers crossed, like Matt said, we need a little bit of a Christmas miracle."

December 24, 2022 - 11:06am

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Members of the Genesee Snopackers have been out all night and into the morning assisting search and rescue crews locate and rescue stranded motorists in the Alabama and Oakfield areas, Vice President Nate Fix reports.

Fix said he's been working with fellow Snopacker Tony Johnston since about 9 p.m.

They've deployed the Snopackers groomers to assist rescue convoys, which includes two MRAPs from Orleans County and Livingston County along with five Sheriff's patrol vehicles and the Oakfield Fire Department.

"We have successfully rescued over 25 people some would not have made any longer and needed immediate medical attention," Fix said."We covered from the Oakfield Fire Hall to a mile west of Macomber Road, leading the convoy back to Oakfield with rescued people. We then went Route 63 toward Batavia Townline Road, Maple to Ledge Road, and all the way to the Indian Falls Fire Hall where we took more survivors.

When he provided the report, about 30 minutes ago, the crew was back on Ledge Road and moving toward the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. They were on their way to rescue a family of five. 

Photos submitted by Nate Fix.

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UPDATE: Johnston and Fix back at the Snopackers garage after 15 hours of search and rescue work.

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December 23, 2022 - 11:39pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Oakfield fire, weather, Oakfield, Winter Storm Elliott.

Friday was one of those days for emergency responders when it seemed as though rescues and accidents made for a nonstop blur of duty.

Oakfield firefighter Bill Sturgeon’s day began around 11 a.m., and he was still on duty late into the night. And in between, there was a family from Lockport that went off the road, a Connecticut couple stuck in another spot and a boyfriend-girlfriend duo attempting a drive back to her home in Toronto.

Yet many others were out and about for unknown or frivolous reasons — one pair was going to the Rez — which perplexed the veteran firefighter.

“I thought, ‘where’s everybody going?’ The chief and third assistant pulled up to one car and asked them ‘where are you going?’ They said Canada and the chief said no, you’re not,” Sturgeon said. “We’re calling around trying to find hotel rooms. The Holiday Inn Express said they were all full, and (Chief) Sean Downing called them. They said they had two more rooms that had been shut down and needed to be cleaned. They literally opened rooms because the fire department asked them.”

Throughout the extreme weather event — an understatement, maybe — Sturgeon was awed by the cooperation of that hotel staff; Dollar General, which remained open while the stranded visitors could buy up supplies, snacks and even dog food; and the (GOOSE) Community Center’s willingness to open its doors to temporarily house people.

Plus, no doubt, the ample numbers of rescue workers from city, village, town and county law enforcement, emergency management, rescue and public works departments.

“We’re doing our best to get out there. There was a welfare check on an elderly couple; everything was fine. You have to pick and choose who you can help, and also be safe,” he said. “We’re going to take it and adjust as we see fit, and the weather sees fit. I imagine the ambulance will be here all night.”

He came upon Michael Santaferrara, who was driving from New York City to Lewiston, at the intersection of Lewiston Road and Main Street. The lost driver had been rerouted a few times and asked where he could settle in for a while. Firefighters directed the lost driver to the fire hall; however, accidents and road detours made for a more difficult journey than Santaferrara expected, he said. (See related story.)

Oakfield crews brought food into the fire hall, cooked up grilled cheese sandwiches, and served other items, including towels and blankets, to people as they ended up stranded in their travels.

A Genesee County travel ban was issued by early afternoon after multiple accidents and vehicles sliding off the road wreaked havoc with emergency response. At least one ambulance and a rescue truck got stuck as well, Sturgeon said.

Amidst all of the commotion, one brilliant occurrence was evident, he said.

“The amazement of all the firefighters here, and across the county, the Sheriff’s (personnel), everybody working together, in the interest of the public, to do what they can,” he said. “It’s huge. To see people pull together. It takes a community to come together for something like this. I saw that today.”

December 23, 2022 - 11:37pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, weather, Oakfield fire, Oakfield.

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Michael Santaferrara got up early Friday morning to drive from Cazenovia to see his sisters in the western part of the state. He thought all was well while after driving about 140 miles on the Thruway.

“Then they closed it because of all the crashes,” the New York City visitor told The Batavian Friday night. “Once I left the Thruway, my whole world changed. Within seconds, I felt like I was in the Arctic. It was a complete whiteout. I was driving five miles an hour looking for what I was hoping was a road.”

By the volume of 911 calls and observations of emergency responders out there, Santaferrara was not alone.

He was, though, perhaps one of the luckier ones. After pulling off the Thruway and onto rural side roads — he described as “just like going from one white canvas to the next” — he arrived at the intersection near Pembroke Central School. Oakfield firefighters were on scene directing and assisting traffic.

Santaferrara was asked where he was headed to, and he replied, “Lewiston,” which prompted a tepid response to attempt it at his own risk. There had been many accidents and vehicles off the road by that point, and emergency responders weren’t encouraging anyone to be driving if possible.

He asked where he could go to just get off the road for a while, and they directed him to the Oakfield fire hall. That wasn’t as easy as it sounded. En route, Santaferrara encountered a few different detours caused by accidents, and coupled with whiteout conditions, he was just hoping to find his destination.

“I just looked down the road and saw all white. It was a pure whiteout,” he said, after driving a bit farther down the road and pulling into a driveway. “I was tempted to knock on the door. I went back to the intersection, and they were all gone.”

He put Oakfield Fire Station into his phone and finally arrived to safety. Well, sort of. He was in the general area but could not even see the building. He tried opening and knocking on doors along parts of the facility before finding the right entryway. And there they were, others who were rescued and a group of firefighters taking care of them.

“They had already saved a family with a baby and a dog,” Santaferrara said. “They fed us all and gave us towels to dry ourselves, and we just hung out there, kept warm, and then they drove us to a hotel they recommended.”

There was also a couple traveling from Connecticut and yet another pair trying to drive to Canada. Although he had grown up in Syracuse, Santaferrara has lived in NYC for nearly four decades, he said.

“This is winter amplified,” he said, adding that his sisters offered to come and get him. "I said, ‘no way I am letting you come to get me.’ I was in it; I could see what I was going through. The 100 percent opacity … It’s the worst I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Despite the dicey trip, Santaferrara was thankful for towels to dry off his snow-covered face, body and hands; for the comforting nourishment of grilled cheese sandwiches and beverages; and for the genuine kindness from the firefighters themselves.

“They were really hospitable, warm, and really welcoming,” he said. “I literally thought I would be stranded in it … in the middle of nowhere. I never had my fingers and face freeze that fast.”

Oakfield Fire Hall served as a warming station for the storm, firefighter Bill Sturgeon said. He agreed that it's been one of the worst storms ever -- and that's during his 32-year career as a firefighter. He transported folks to a hotel in Batavia when needed.

"It has to be among the top one to two storms I've ever been through ... visibility-wise. There had to be 15 to 20 cars off the road between Fisher Road and the village line. I felt bad, but I couldn't stop," Sturgeon said later Friday night. "We have more people that were brought into the fire hall. The captain was driving home and saw a couple and picked them up; one had asthma. But an ambulance crew was here to help." 

(See a personal account about driving in the storm.)

There were several helpers, including those from unexpected places. When Santaferrara walked into the fire hall, there was a goosebump moment: the contact page of his late mom and dad popped up on his phone.

“That made you feel like they were looking after you,” he said.

His luck continued when he got the last available room at a city hotel, he said. With his trail mix snack running low, he was ready to stay put nonetheless until it was deemed safe to travel. His vehicle remains at the fire hall, and firefighters have offered to pick him up and bring him back to the station when that moment comes.

“I feel incredibly grateful,” he said.

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Top Photo: Members of Oakfield Fire Rescue during a brief lull from rescuing motorists stranded in the wintry conditions Friday in Genesee County; the truck ready for action, above. Photos submitted by Michael Santaferrara, who was taken to a Batavia hotel after getting stuck in white-outs while enroute to Lewiston.

December 23, 2022 - 11:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Oakfield, news, Winter Storm Elliott.

A tractor-trailer vs. multiple vehicles accident is reported at Macomber Road and Judge Road, Oakfield.

Oakfield and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Injuries are reported.

A first responder reports a complete whiteout.  Fire police were dispatched to shut down traffic.

UPDATE 11:51 a.m.: One minor injury at the scene, a sign-off, and two other vehicles involved moved to the Alabama Fire Hall.  

December 8, 2022 - 11:26pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, elba, Oakfield, GCEDC, Cider Solar, solar farms.

stevehyde_oct142015filemug.jpegIf all goes as expected, a solar energy project in Elba and Oakfield will net a nearly $88 million gain for Genesee County over the next three decades, Steve Hyde says.

The CEO of the county’s Economic Development Center reviewed that financial projection as part of a Hecate Energy Cider Solar LLC project. Public hearings were recently conducted in each municipality, with a few comments and not much of an outpouring of concerns or complaints, Hyde said.

He and Marketing and Communications Director Jim Krencik presented the review during Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting. Krencik credited a successful negotiation between all entities for the project’s forward progress.

“This is going to have a major impact philosophically and visually,” he said. 

Once, or if, the measure is approved by both municipal boards and the county Legislature, the presence of a solar operation is to help fund infrastructure throughout the county via first-year payments to Elba ($989,739) and Oakfield-Alabama ($660,133) schools, the towns of Elba ($756,698) and Oakfield ($504,463), and Genesee County itself ($774,165), he said.

Thirty-year revenue predictions result with those entities each garnering $12 million to $19 million each, plus a residential utility bill credit of $2.5 million and special district taxes of nearly $5.8 million, Hyde and Krencik said. In the shorter term, each entity is predicted to receive anywhere from $504,463 to $989,739 from the deal in the first year alone.

Although the projects won’t create a lot of jobs, Hyde said, there is an impact of getting back $22 for every dollar invested, he said.

“We’ve got something here that’s pretty significant from a tax basis,” he said.

Committee legislators agreed with the plan.

“This is a transformational project for these communities,” Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said. “They need to get something back. We’re going to authorize our IDA to collect money on our behalf. If the state comes in, they’d be doing it for free.”

Admittedly, “playing tough” is not Hyde’s style, he said, but negotiations “got really tough at some points.”

jimkrencik.jpegThere were more than 10 meetings from spring 2021 to this fall, and they involved each town’s, the county’s and EDC’s leadership to arrive at an agreement. If approved by the Towns of Elba and Oakfield -- slated for votes of consent on Thursday and Dec. 13 -- and then approved by the county Legislature on Dec. 14, "all parties would execute on their approved agreements with Hecate Energy Cider Solar LLC," Krencik said.

The time and effort has been worth it, Hyde said.

"Accomplishing a high level of fiscal benefits from solar energy projects has been a shared goal of the GCEDC, Genesee County, and our towns and schools. We thank the towns of Elba and Oakfield for their commitment and collaboration throughout the negotiations for Hecate Energy Cider Solar LLC," he said. "They have gone above and beyond in representing their communities," Hyde said.

The Batavian has reached out to the Town of Elba for the results of this week's expected vote and will add that once a reply is received.

Top File Photo: Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center, by Howard Owens; above, Marketing and Communications Director Jim Krencik, from GCEDC website. 

December 3, 2022 - 3:43pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Genesee Society of Model Engineers, Oakfield.

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With the onslaught of technology and video games these days, Michael Pyszczea was happy this weekend to introduce a longtime tradition that he’s known from decades ago.

Pyszczea and fellow club members had their 20th annual open house for the Genesee Society of Model Engineers in Oakfield.

As kids and their families checked out model train set-ups and the chugging vehicles along metal tracks, you could say the event was full steam ahead.

“This is about model railroading. Many of us grew up with train sets from our childhood, with Lionel around the tree. It’s not as prevalent … it’s out of focus. The cost of these things has  gone up, and sometimes kids would rather have video games,” he said. “This is just to share our enjoyment of trains, to allow a time for our family and our friends to come up here, and to bond with the community. And it really is for the kids. You go around and you see them going crazy over this.

“It’s something they can do and enjoy that doesn’t involve a joystick and a keyboard,” he said.

The club has been operating for 52 years, and has about 35 members, he said. Members may have relatives who work on a railroad, or are professionals in the field themselves, said Pyszczea, who is club treasurer.

Typical weeks would involve train enthusiasts gathering once or twice a week to construct layout, run and talk about trains, have a cup of coffee and socialize, he said.

But the open house offers special moments for others to partake in the hobby as well.

“This is how we grew up. You don’t see trains in department store windows any more. Some of (the visitors) are seeing model railroading, sometimes for the first time,” he said.

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Top Photo: Colton Hilchey watches a train in action during Genesee Society of Model Engineers' open house Saturday in Oakfield; visitors enjoy checking out the various train layouts during the event. Photos by Howard Owens. 

December 3, 2022 - 2:51pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Oakfield, Santa Claus.

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Mckenzie, 4, has a chat with Santa Claus during his visit to Oakfield Saturday, as Ryder, 6, below, takes his turn afterward while their mom, Samantha Blake, takes photos.

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Santa makes his way to the gazebo in the village of Oakfield Saturday before having several sit-down visits with children to review their wishlists. 

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A visit from jolly ol' St. Nick made for plenty of photo opportunities for families Saturday in Oakfield.

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Photos by Howard Owens.

December 1, 2022 - 3:30pm
posted by Press Release in Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, news.

Press release:

Everyone is invited to learn of the choice made by residents for their new slogan for the Haxton Memorial Library. The new slogan will be announced prior to the lighting ceremony that takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Triangle Park in Oakfield.

After the lighting ceremony, folks can stop by the outside of the library too, and see the new slogan that will be lit up in one of the library’s front windows, enjoy some Christmas cookies, and pick up a bit of SWAG that features the library’s new logo and slogan.

In-person and online voting for the new library slogan was conducted beginning in September and throughout October with three possible choices including Windows of Opportunity, Your Windows to the World, and Windows to Discovery. Slogan voters were also entered into a chance to win a randomly drawn $50 gift card. The winner of the gift card will also be announced at the December 3 unveiling announcement.

“It was a very close contest,” says Carol D’Alba, Board President. “We received nearly 200 votes from community members, and we are thrilled to have had so much involvement in choosing our new slogan.”

To learn more about the library, stop by the circulation desk or call (585) 948-9900. The Haxton Memorial Library, located at 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield, provides residents a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website at www.HaxtonLibrary.org.

November 30, 2022 - 9:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, Oakfield.
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Beth Jeffres

Beth Ann Jeffres, 40, no permanent address, is charged with criminal possession of a narcotic drug, two counts of criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to sell, promoting prison contraband 1st, and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Jeffres is accused of entering the Genesee County Jail in possession of narcotic drugs. She was ordered held on cash bail.

Giuseppa G. Flannaca, 33, of Orleans Avenue, Batavia, is charged with grand larceny 3rd. Flannaca is accused of stealing more than $3,000 in merchandise from The Home Depot between Aug. 1 and Oct. 12. Flannaca was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and released on her own recognizance.

Summer Rose Sewar, 29, of Sunset Parkway, Oakfield, is charged with driving while ability paired by drugs. Sewar was arrested on Nov. 23. She was stopped at 11:42 p.m. on Aug. 24 on Judge Road in Alabama by Deputy Mason Schultz after deputies responded to a "check the welfare" call. Sewar was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released on an appearance ticket.

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