15 years ago: Looking back on the October Surprise Storm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — 15 years ago the October Surprise Storm ripped through Western New York. It changed the way storms are handled in the region.

Richard Dixon is one of many Buffalonians who remembers the scene very clearly.

“I didn’t think it was gonna be that bad but it winded up to be really devastating,” Dixon said.

The storm left nearly 20 inches of snow, countless fallen trees, and more than 265,000 Western New Yorkers without power. Ken Kujawa is the regional director of National Grid and worked for the company during the storm.

“It was a challenging time because we obviously had to get power restored to everyone but the magnitude of the event was so large that it took time to be able to get our system rebuilt and get everybody back in power,” he said.

He remembers bringing in 4,000 workers from 19 states to help out.

“It was a community effort: hotels, restaurants, people were coming out to bring coffee and food to our crews as they were restoring power and it was something that really made you feel good.”

Dixon said he had no power for a week and grilled all the food in the fridge to keep it from spoiling.

Kujawa said what came out of that storm are now considered best practices not only for National Grid but for utility companies around the state.

“We believe that because of what happened 15 years ago we’re a better company today in terms of responding to storm events that happen on our system.”

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