LOGANTON, Pa. – Some National Guard troops weren't fighting terrorism Saturday; they were battling a cold, frosty enemy that has pummeled sections of the Northeast.
The troops helped dig out Buffalo, N.Y., after a record-breaking, five-day storm, with assistance from crews from nearby Rochester, N.Y., and Toronto.
The winter may have started out unseasonably warm and void of snow, but bracing winter storms have spanned from Lake Superior to eastern Pennsylvania this week, causing whiteouts in Pennsylvania and covering northern Michigan and Buffalo with more than 6 feet of snow.
U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn and Sen. Charles Schumer requested federal aid for Buffalo. The snow removal will cost about $5 million, Schumer estimated.
"The president has nicknames for everyone and he calls me the big man from Buffalo," Quinn said. "I'm 6-foot-5 and I'm going to tell him the snow is over the big man's head."
Buffalo has been hit with 83.5 inches of snow just this month – a whopping 82.3 inches since Monday – making it by far the snowiest month in the city's history. The previous record was 68.4 inches in 1985.
Signs of hope emerged Saturday as a 75-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway, a major east-west highway, was opened for the first time since Thursday. Buffalo Niagara International Airport had reopened Friday evening.
In Pennsylvania survivors told of rescues amid tragedy after snow squalls and slick roads caused chain-reaction accidents on three interstates, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens.
Heavy snow, wind and cold turned highways to ice and blinded drivers in central Pennsylvania, causing several crashes Friday, including a fiery 51-vehicle pileup on Interstate 80 near Loganton. Six people were killed.
The interstate, one of the busiest east-west corridors in the country, was shut down in both directions. A highway used as a detour was blocked by a series of minor accidents for part of Saturday morning, and police said several people suffered minor injuries.
The dangerous conditions Friday struck without warning.
"I was driving on the freeway and all of a sudden, it was like somebody flipped a switch and it became a whiteout," said Gibson, of Lakewood, Ohio, who escaped injury with her children, Kylie, 15, and Trent, 8. "You really couldn't see five feet in front of you. You couldn't see taillights."
Her minivan slid into a tractor-trailer that jackknifed in front of her. She saw a tanker truck pile in, and car after car slammed in. "The cars kept coming – Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom!" she said.
A woman got out of a car that wedged under the tanker and screamed that her children were still inside.
"I got in there, but I couldn't get that baby," said James Blake, of Tiffin, Ohio. "So I got my pocketknife and I went in again and I cut the straps on the car seat and we still couldn't get him out, and then I had to just take him by the head and wiggle him until he came out."
The crash involved a tanker carrying powdered iron, a highly flammable material used in chemical processing, state police said. Two trucks and 12 cars were destroyed by flames, police said.
Two more interstate pileups late Friday involving about 30 cars killed two people near Hazleton, in northeastern Pennsylvania, Luzerne County's Emergency Management Agency said. Several multiple-vehicle accidents caused by snow squalls also shut down southbound Interstate 476 south of Wilkes-Barre for several hours.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.