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Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 7:53 pm

First witnesses take stand -- and one doesn't -- in Dashawn Butler case

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

NOTE: Jurors are instructed by Judge Robert C. Noonan not to read media accounts of the trial. This story contains information not available to jurors. Certainly, no jurors should read the story nor should the case be discussed with jurors.

There's no physical evidence putting a gun in the hand of Dashawn Butler the night shots rang out on State Street 14 months ago, defense attorney Thomas Burns told jurors during opening arguments today in a criminal trial in Genesee County Court.

Three witnesses testified before jurors were sent home for the day, but the most unusual moment of the case came when one of the witnesses scheduled to take the stand refused to testify.

In his opening statement, Burns told jurors that there were no shell casings, no bullet holes in any building or car, no victim shot, nothing to demonstrate clearly that Butler either possessed or fired a gun the night of Sept. 27, 2013.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman kept his opening remarks brief -- to match the briefness of the incident that allegedly took place on State Street in Batavia.

"When all is said and done, through the use of common sense and the collective experience you have in the world to evaluate evidence, you will find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of these crimes," Friedman said.

Butler is charged with attempted assault, attempt to cause serious physical injury, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The charges stem from an incident near 117 State St. when gunshots were reportedly fired at a person standing on the sidewalk.

Butler was named as a suspect not long after the shooting and a warrant was issued for his arrest. It took several months to locate him before he was arrested.

Called to the stand today were Julie Ann Carasone, a resident of State Street, Lisa Strong, a former State Street resident now living in Oakfield, Tracy Leubner, a former girlfriend of Butler's, and Kelly Rhim, the purported target of the alleged gun fire.

The case was moving along briskly, after a late start because of a juror's mistaken belief that court was closed today, until it came time to call Leubner, the third witness of the day, to the stand.

When Friedman went into the hall to retrieve the witness, he wasn't heard from for a minute or two, and then he stuck his head in the door and told Judge Robert C. Noonan that it would be another minute.

As the minutes ticked by, a woman could be heard sobbing outside the courtroom.

After at least 10 minutes of waiting, Noonan sent the jury into recess and Friedman entered and said that his witness, Tracy Leubner, was refusing to testify. Friedman held a document that he said was a police report detailing how Leubner had been threatened by a man whom he believed is an associate of Butler's.

Leubner is reportedly an ex-girlfriend of Butler's and has knowledge of both the incident Sept. 27 and Butler's purported gang ties.

In lieu of Leubner's testimony, Friedman requested using the transcript of her grand jury testimony.

Burns objected on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to make his client culpable in the alleged threats, and at the least, there should be a hearing on the matter to establish such evidence. The case in point, Burns said, was People vs. Smart.

That case (and previous cases) establishes that a criminal defendant surrenders his right to confront witnesses against him if the defendant threatens the witness.

With the jury out of the room, Friedman called Det. Thad Mart, with Batavia PD. Mart was involved in the criminal investigation against Butler, did the initial interview with Leubner, served a subpoena on her Nov. 7, and retrieved her from her home this morning.

Leubner had to be coaxed out of her house and to the court building, Mart testified.

He claimed that Leubner had told him that when she lived with Butler, Butler used to beat her. The detective said that she told him previously she had been tricked into attending a party hosted by Butler at a residence on Holland Avenue. At the party, according to Mart, Butler confronted Leubner and said he would have "kicked the sh--" out of her if he had known about her grand jury testimony, and that he would "kick the sh--" out of her if she testified at trial.

Mart testified that a third party also contacted Leubner and threatened her.

"He told her he heard that she had snitched on Butler," Mart said. "She denied this and he went on and said that he found out she had snitched on him. He said that if Butler wanted her dead, he would be willing to take care of it himself."

During cross examination, Burns asked Mart questions about any follow-up investigation and Mart said he didn't talk with the third party and never confirmed that Butler and this other person even knew each other.

After a lunch break, Burns called witness Gina Bell to the stand.

Bell testified that she was friends with both Leubner and Butler. She was at this trial, in fact, in support of Butler. She said she was also friends with the alleged intended victim of the reported shooting, Kelly Rhim.

Contrary to Mart's testimony, Bell said that it was Leubner's idea to go to the party on Holland Avenue. Bell didn't even know about the party, she said, until Leubner invited her.

She testified that there was no apparent conflict between Leubner and Butler at the party, though she admitted she wasn't with either of them throughout the evening, and that Leubner didn't seem distressed or bothered after coming by Butler's house once she left the party.

"She seemed fine," Bell said. "She seemed like she had a good night. She was happy. She said nothing about any problems at the party."

Bell also said that in all the time she's known Leubner, Leubner never gave any indication that Butler ever harmed her.

Noonan ruled that there was sufficient evidence that Butler was involved in threats against Leubner and the grand jury transcript could be read to the jury. He said the only thing Bell's testimony established was whose idea it was to go to the party, which wasn't material to the substance of establishing why Leubner was unwilling to testify. He said nothing in her testimony directly refuted the alleged threats against Leubner.

To read Leubner's testimony, Friedman read the questions he asked in front of the grand jury and the Assistant District Attorney sat in the witness stand and read Leubner's answers.

She testified before the grand jury that somebody supplied Butler with a small, black handgun prior to the shooting. It was a revolver, she said (which wouldn't leave behind shell casings).

She said that Butler heard some people arguing near 117 State St., and then he heard his name mentioned. She said that a person was calling Butler a fake, a phony.

"'You want to see fake,'" she said Butler said. "He pulled out a gun and proceeded to shoot the man."

She later clarified that she meant to say that Butler shot at the man.

She said she heard four or five shots and then the gun jammed.

Later, at a residence in the city, Butler told a friend, she said, to flush the spent shells down the toilet.

"Dashawn was talking with friends about the gun jamming," she reportedly told the grand jury. "He was upset because he thought the bullets might be too big or something."

It was then that the subject came up that perhaps the bullets were blanks.

It was the only explanation Butler could think of, she said, for why Butler missed the person standing in front of him.

"He didn't understand why he missed," she reportedly said. "He said he was aiming right at him and if it was actual ammunition he wouldn't have missed."

Testifying in the afternoon was Kelly Rhim, the person Butler is accused of intending to shoot.

He said he's known Butler since about 2001 or 2002 and they're nearly the same age.

The night of the alleged shooting, Rhim said he went to his aunt's house at 117 State St. to pick up some CDs. He said he had recently moved to Buffalo and that he worked as a DJ and needed the CDs for a gig later that night.

He arrived on State at about 10:30 p.m. He was accompanied by his brother-in-law.

There were two people on the porch and Rhim and the other two people had words.

The group had a confrontation the night before, Rhim said.

Rhim was upset because one of the men, he said, had been going around telling people that Rhim had been in town the night before with a group of gang members from Buffalo.

"They're not even close to gang members," Rhim said.

He then saw Butler run up from behind the house with a youth.

He said Butler accused him of saying that he, Butler, was fake.

"We fake now. We fake now," he said Butler screamed.

Rhim said, he replied, "Yes, you're fake. You're recruiting a bunch of teenagers to be part of all that B.S."

He said Butler then pulled out a gun and told him to back up.

"I just stood there," Rhim said. "I never moved. He shot three times. I started feeling myself, because I watch a lot of crime shows on TV, to make sure if I was hit or not. I wasn't sure if I was struck or not."

He was talking fast and the court reporter couldn't keep up.

He repeated, "I watch a lot of crime shows. You're not supposed to move if you think you've been hit by a bullet."

He said he couldn't believe what just happened.

"I was shocked because I've been living in Batavia since '85," Rhim said. "That kind of violence doesn't go on here, period."

He said Butler ran off after firing the three shots. He then left with his brother-in-law and drove to Ri-Dans, a bar on West Main Street Road, where they had some drinks.

During cross, Rhim said he never saw a gun, just "flashes of light" coming from Butler's sleeve.

He admitted later that he was arrested for DWI that night and later convicted in Town of Batavia Court of the charge.

He said he didn't have anything to drink prior to driving to State Street in his brother-in-law's white Cadillac and having the alleged confrontation.

After Ri-Dans, he and his brother-in-law sat in the Caddy and lit up a blunt, he testified.

“After I got shot at I smoked some weed,” he said, rolling his eyes and looking as if any reasonable person would have done the same thing.

His previous convictions over the past decade include disorderly conduct (twice), criminal sale of a controlled substance and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

During cross examination, Rhim also conceded that he was driving that evening without a license, which was suspended because of late child support payments.

After leaving the bar, sometime after 2 a.m., he was pulled over so Sheriff’s deputies could asked him about the State Street incident. He said nine deputies with nine guns drawn descended on him and his brother-in-law and had them lie down on the ground. He said one of them asked him who he shot.

He said he didn’t shoot anyone and there was no gun on the two men or in the vehicle. He was found, however, to be intoxicated and was arrested for DWI. Officers found one “dime bag” of weed on him (enough to roll three blunts he says) and nine more “in the console” of the vehicle.

Continuing with questions possibly intended to cast the prosecution's witness as having less than sterling character, Burns then asked Rhim if had been arrested for allegedly stealing meat from Top’s Market. The case is still pending.

“It was not no meat. It was $240 worth of stuff,” the witness said. “Roses for my mom’s tombstone, paper goods and stuff. I thought I lost my money. I backtracked out the store and before you know it I was outside the store at my car.”

He claims his clarity of mind had been affected by medication he had been given for an abscess, which made him “disoriented and delusional.”

But going back to the matter on trial -- whether Dashawn Butler used a gun to try and shoot Rhim on Sept. 27, 2013 -- the witness stood by his testimony, even though it varied from what he had signed in a sworn statement to Batavia PD.

“They switched the words on me,” he told the jurors.

Burns asked if he remembered telling police that the incident with Butler was related to something posted on Facebook.

He replied that he never said the derogatory remarks about him on Facebook came from Butler. He said he doesn’t know who posted them.

Lastly, Burns asked him if he remembers telling officers when they pulled him over after he left the bar, “You don’t know what the f--k you’re getting into.”

No, the witness said, “They were making things up.”

State Street resident Julie Ann Carasone testified that she was in her daughter's room watching "Law & Order" while her daughter and a friend played a game on the Xbox hooked up to the living room TV when she heard the possible gunshots.

"I heard somebody say, 'get down mother f--ker, get down mother f--ker' and then I heard, pop-pop-pop, and I thought 'oh, my God, it's gunshots,' " Carasone said. "I turned down the TV to make sure it wasn't on TV and then I heard a female saying, 'I can't believe you shot him.' "

She said she ushered the children into the bathtub, thinking they would be safer there if there were any more shots fired, and called 9-1-1.

Asked how she recognized the sound of gunshots, she said her father was a military veteran and the family spent a lot of time on military bases, near firing ranges, and that her father had taught her about guns.

Lisa Strong testified that she was sitting on her porch smoking a cigarette five doors down from 117 State St. when she heard what sounded like people arguing. She heard the gunshots and then saw a white car, possibly a Cadillac, speed away. She said from two to six people then ran in various directions.

She did not call police. She went in her house and locked the door.

The trial resumes tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Billie Owens contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Robbery suspect in custody, but investigators working to determine if she's the right person

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield

Investigators have a suspect in custody from an armed robbery at the pharmacy on Main Street in Oakfield today, but haven't ruled out the possibility of a different person being involved, said Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble.

At about 12:30 a woman entered the pharmacy and displayed what appeared to be a handgun and demanded cash, according to Dibble.

After the robbery, she was seen fleeing down Forest Avenue, where she entered a residence.

Deputies and troopers surrounded the house, K-9 Destro responded, and a short time later, a woman was taken into custody.

She is being questioned by investigators, but Dibble said this afternoon that they hadn't ruled out the possibility that she's not the woman who robbed the pharmacy.

The house was being searched and the woman and other people were being questioned, Dibble said.

There was a tussle during the robbery and a female employee sustained fingernail scratches on the back of her neck, Dibble said.

The woman who robbed the pharmacy was wearing a hoodie and had what appeared to be an ace bandage covering a portion of her face.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Travel advisory issued for southern half of county

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

A travel advisory has been issued for Darien, Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion.

The Sheriff's Office advises against unnecessary travel in those areas of the county due to poor driving conditions

There is heavy snow, poor visibility and poor driving conditions.

Also, Route 63 into Pavilion is closed.

Wyoming County is also being hit hard by snow. Trucks are off the road in a couple of locations. The plows haven't been able to keep up in the Village of Attica.  

So, if you were thinking of traveling south, think again.

UPDATE 5:33 p.m.: Route 19 southbound is closed in Le Roy at Robbins Road. Routes 19, 63 and 20 are described as "a parking lot" with cars and trucks unable to move.

UPDATE: Both Route 63 and Route 19 have reopened. The travel advisory is still in effect, however.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 8:29 am

Contrary to some news reports, there are no travel bans in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Press release from the Sheriff's Office:

Some news agencies are still reporting travel bans/advisories in Genesee County. At this time there are NO travel bans or advisories in Genesee County.

The previous bans in the Town of Pembroke, Village of Corfu and the towns of Darien, Alexander, Bethany, Pavilion and Le Roy have all been lifted as per the previous releases from the Sheriff.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 7:43 am

Possible roof collapse reported at home on Herkimer Road, Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu, Darien

A resident on Herkimer Road is reporting a crack in the ceiling of the house and is concerned about the roof collapsing.

Darien fire dispatched. One engine from Corfu is requested to the scene.

The Darien code enforcement officer is also in route, via tractor.

UPDATE 7:55 a.m.: There is no collapse. Darien fire going back in service. Code enforcement to continue to the scene.

UPDATE 8 a.m.: A resident Reynolds Road, Darien, is reporting a possible collapse of the roof over the porch.

UPDATE 8:09 a.m.: There is a report of a possible partial barn collapse in the area of Walkers Road and Simonds Road. There may be cattle inside. This is coming to dispatchers third hand and hasn't been confirmed.

UPDATE 8:12 a.m.: All available manpower to Corfu fire hall. One engine to fill in at Darien Fire Hall.

UPDATE 11:57 p.m.: The resident of a home at 10218 Colby Road in Darien Center reports the roof is possibly collapsing or in danger of doing so because of heavy snow piled on it. Darien fire is responding.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Closures and cancellations for Thursday, Nov. 20

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

What we've received so far:

  • Darien Town Court
  • State offices in Genesee County
  • Pembroke Central School District
  • Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools
  • Batavia City Schools
  • Alexander Central School
  • GCC, Batavia campus
  • Byron-Bergen Central Schools
  • Elba Central School District
  • Notre Dame and St. Joe's
  • Grandma’s Luv’n Care Daycare
  • Genesee Christian Academy
  • Le Roy Central Schools
  • Pavilion Central Schools
  • Alexander Central Schools
  • Pembroke Family Medicene, all three locations, will open at noon today
  • Love Bugs Preschool
  • Batavia Pediatrics will open at noon
  • Continental School of Beauty
  • Women's Care Center is opening at 1 p.m.
  • The Cello Fury concert at GCC will be rescheduled
  • Optique
  • Genesee Association of Municipalities meeting in Oakfield is cancelled
  • Genesee County courts are OPEN today. Jurors should report.
  • City of Batavia Yard Waste Station, closed through the weekend
  • Batavia Assembly of God Church
  • Choir practice at First Presbyterian, Batavia
  • Zoning Board of Appeals
  • Tonight's EMS class is cancelled, but the Mutual Aid Advisory board will meet as scheduled at the Fire Training Center.

E-mail closures and cancellations to [email protected]. Ideally before 8 a.m.

E-mail weather pictures to [email protected]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Weather service offers reminders for snow safety

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Snow safety advice from the National Weather Service:

Moving all this snow can be dangerous. Here are some precautions.

Do not overexert yourself...shoveling or even walking in the heavy snow is extremely taxing. Take plenty of breaks to avoid overexerting yourself.

Overstressed roofs can collapse. Snow removal off structures is a dangerous activity that should only be done by qualified individuals following safety protocols to minimize risks. If at any time there is a concern that snow loads may cause a collapse...evacuate the building. Signs of overstressed roofs may include sagging tiles or boards. Popping, cracking or creaking sounds also signal significant danger.

Travel safety -- many roads are still in extremely poor condition or are impassible. Heed local, regional and other emergency travel bans. Take the time now and place a winter safety kit in your car. Items include but are not limited to: a fully charged cell phone, blankets, flashlight, knife, non-perishable food, clothing, and a shovel.

Clear snow from high efficiency furnace pipes, snow covering furnace pipes can lead to carbon monoxide build up in your home. Ensure carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly.

Generator safety -- if you are relying on a generator for power make sure the generator is located away from the house and not in an enclosed space. Running a generator indoors can lead to a build of harmful gases in your home.

Space heater safety -- space heaters should also be properly ventilated and used only if they are operating properly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

More heavy snow coming tonight and during morning commute

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

From the National Weather Service:

The next round of lake effect snow...complete with thundersnow at times...will move across the Niagara River and into Niagara County and Orleans County between 9 and 10 p.m. This band will then quickly move south into northern Erie County and Genesee County. Conditions will rapidly deteriorate with this band. Snow rates are forecast to be around 1 to 2 inches per hour...although the band will not linger very long in the lakeshore counties. The band will then cross the north towns before midnight and settle roughly over the same area that was hit hard earlier this week. This band will intensify toward daybreak with snow rates again expected to approach 3 inches per hour or higher during the morning commute. Please heed all existing driving bans and if you must 
travel, carry a survival kit.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Reader snow photos from yesterday and today

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Two photos above from Danyell Selapack.

Jimmy Sheflin says Brix loves the snow.

Corfu

Trucks at Tops last night. Submitted by Greg Rada.

Submitted by Nate Fix. His dad's place (Bernie Fix) in Corfu.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Criminal charge dismissed against Bergen man who pointed shotgun at suspected intruder

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, crime

In the interest of justice, John Robinson, the 51-year-old Bergen resident arrested on a menacing charge after pointing a shotgun at a possible intruder into his home, is a free man.

Town of Bergen Justice Donald R. Kunego issued his ruling today on a motion by defense attorney Brian DeCarolis that the charge against his client be dismissed.

In a four-page ruling that Kunego read from the bench, the judge did just that, saying that a man has a right to defend his castle.

"People expect to be able to protect 'their castle' from attack," Kunego said. "Mr. Robinson's castle was under attack by Mr. Crooks. People confronted with the same circumstances presented to Mr. Robinson on the day in question would unquestionably engage in similar behavior with the expectation that they were properly and lawfully defending themselves."

According to Kunego, Brockport resident Michael Crooks went to Robinson's home Jan. 13, 2013, to confront Robinson, whom he had never met in person before, over some sort of relationship between Robinson and Mrs. Crooks that Mr. Crooks didn't like.

In Kunego's recital of the facts of the case, Crooks banged on Robinson's door, yelled and threatened him and kicked at the door hard enough to damage it. When Robinson didn't open the door, he went to another portion of the house presumably to gain entry.

"Due to Mr. Crooks' relentless and persistent actions, aggressive demeanor and verbal threats, Mr. Robinson felted threatened in his own home," Kunego said. "He feared that Mr. Crooks was not going to leave until at the very least he had entered his home and physically confronted him and at worse he would physically harm him."

Kunego said he believed Robinson's response was entirely lawful and justified.

After the ruling, Robinson said he was relieved, but he also expected to prevail.

"I wasn't really that nervous because I thought I did everything right," Robinson said. "I called 9-1-1. I put the dogs away. I avoided contact with him and all I did was stay in the house and tried not to have the conflict. When I talked to the state troopers, when they were there, they said I did the right thing."

The day of the confrontation, Crooks heard later that a trooper wanted to talk with him. He went to the Batavia barracks, where he was arrested by Trooper Eric Daigler. He was charged with criminal mischief, 4th, for damaging the door of Robinson's home on Lake Road in Bergen.

The door was pretty heavily damaged, Robinson said today, as well as the screen, from Crooks kicking and hitting it.

Crooks, who had no prior criminal record, eventually received an ACD (adjudication in contemplation of dismissal). As soon as his six months of good behavior was up, he started lobbying for the arrest of Robinson. First he went to the State Police, but local troopers wouldn't even consider it, so he went to the Sheriff's Office.

There he found a sympathetic ear with a sergeant who turned the case over to Deputy Matthew Butler.

"When Officer Butler showed up 15 months later and told me I was under arrest, I couldn't believe it," Robinson said. "I was like, you've got to be kidding me, right? He told me right then and there that he didn't want to arrest me, but he had to. I don't know what he meant by that. I don't know if he was forced by his upper commanders, but that's what he told me. He said, 'John, I don't want to do it, but I've got to.' "

Robinson's arrest didn't sit well with the troopers familiar with the case, which was part of Daigler's testimony in a hearing on the motion to dismiss Oct. 1.

"I was dumbfounded," Daigler said. "First and foremost, it's common practice not to take on other agency's cases. We refer to it as 'cop shopping.' It happens. Usually, we are pretty good at stopping people who are just trying to get the right answer. They are looking for the answer they want. That's usually the Sheriff's Office policy."

The State Police response to Robinson's arrest is one element of the case that helped Kunego arrive at his decision to dismiss the charge.

"It cannot be overlooked that after a full and complete investigation of this incident by the New York State Police and after consultation with the Genesee County District Attorney's Office, a decision was made that there was insufficient evidence to even charge Mr. Robinson," Kunego said, referring to the initial investigation and consideration of charging Robinson in 2013.

"Significantly, the New York State Police still believe that Mr. Robinson should not have been charged and are not supportive of his prosecution."

Factors in Kunego's decisions, which are part of the findings in an "interest of justice" dismissal, are:

  • Menacing, 2nd, a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is one year in jail. Given Robinson's lack of criminal record, his steady employment and longtime residence in the same home, he would not have received any jail time even if convicted. The dismissal might have been harder for Robinson to obtain if any of those facts weren't true.
  • There was no real harm to anyone from Robinson wielding a shotgun inside his own home. More significantly, Kunego said, only Robinson contacted police in relation to the incident. Crooks didn't contact police until after he inquired with a family member and learned that Daigler was looking for him.
  • If the case did go to trial, Kunego said, it would be unlikely, given the facts of the case, that Robinson would be convicted by a jury, especially in New York, where a person who is protecting life and home is legally protected in taking action to advance that protection.
  • While nobody in the Sheriff's Office can be accused of misconduct in the case, Kunego said, the fact that his arrest came 15 months after the arrest cannot be ignored.
  • Sending Robinson to jail would not advance the cause of justice, Kunego said, nor would it make the community safer given the unique circumstances of the case and the lack of any prior arrests or criminal complaints against Robinson.
  • Dismissal, Kunego ruled, would advance public confidence in the criminal justice system, while further prosecution of Robinson would erode public confidence, since any reasonable person, according to Kunego, would do exactly what Robinson did Jan. 13, 2013, in the same circumstances.

"I'm glad he went this way, but I can't believe it took this long," Robinson said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Photos: Dealing with heavy snow in Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in Darien, weather

Here are some shots of how things looked in Darien this morning after the town received several feet of snow over the previous 24 hours.

Crews and trucks were brought in from Wyoming and Livingston counties to assist the town, county and state drivers and equipment.

And residents were finding any way they could just to clear a path from their front door to the street, such as the Klug family on Sumner Road (top photo). They are, from back, Frank, Jessica, Dawn and Val.

Frank said he just wanted to clear a walking path in case of an emergency. He wasn't even worrying about getting the driveway clear for the four cars buried in the snow.

On Route 20, Austin Heberlein, standing, was lending a hand to his father Mark and brother Zach (neither are pictured) as they tried to extricate his mother's car out of a snow bank.

A state DOT snow blower on Route 20 in Alexander. There were even bigger snow blower trucks brought in, but we didn't get to see one of those in action (in the slide show is a picture of one, however).

The view northbound on Harlow Road.

Close to two hours after the top photo was taken, this plow was finally reaching the south end of Harlow Road.

Digging out on Fargo Road.

It wasn't all work in Darien this morning. Micheal and Tucker Pfenninger had great fun playing on the giant mound of snow Dad made in the process of clearing the driveway of their Fargo Road home.

A Livingston County snow blower on Bell Road.

Residents blowing snow at a home at Sumner Road and Route 77.

A resident tries to build a path from his home to the street on Sumner Road. When I came back nearly an hour later, he hadn't made much more progress.

Taken on Route 98, Alexander. There additional scenic shots in the slide show.

To purchase prints, click here.

Here's some video from today from The Batavian's news partner, 13WHAM

Oops, I can't embed video and embed a slide show in the same post. Click here to view the 13WHAM video.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Photos: 30 DOT plow trucks staging in Stafford

post by Howard B. Owens in dot, Stafford, weather

A convoy of 30 DOT plow trucks pulled into Genesee County today, coming down Route 19 to Route 5 in Le Roy and then stopping at the DOT facility on West Main Street Road, Stafford.

The stop is a staging area before heading further west into Erie County.

While the roads have been cleared in Darien, there's still a lot of work to be done in Erie County, and more snow is expected tonight.

UPDATE: A total of 199 trucks are staging in Stafford, coming from all over the state, mostly locations to the east. Drivers are being housed in local hotels while awaiting assignments, primarily in Erie County.

I spent all morning in Darien and will have pictures to post later, but there's something else I need to go cover now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Victim of fatal crash identified

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Alabama

The woman who died in an accident on Meadville Road yesterday has been identified as Nituna L. Stafford, 40, of Basom.

She was pronounced dead at the scene by County Coroner Barry Miller.

The other person in the vehicle was Eli M. Smoke, 26, of Alabama. Smoke was injured and treated at ECMC for leg and chest pain.

State police say the vehicle they were in failed to stop at the end of Meadville Road and struck and continued through concrete barriers before stopping.

Stafford was the driver.

The investigation is ongoing, but is not considered a weather-related event.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Snow showers expected overnight

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Weather report from Mark McLean, weatherman for 13WHAM, The Batavian's news partner:

Ultimate Doppler HD shows that the intense lake snow band from Lake Erie is weakening and drifting to the north shore of the lake. This is away from the areas that got buried yesterday. Also note on the wider view that another storm system is headed our way now. This storm will deliver a general light snow in WNY late this afternoon and this evening.

Check out the snow accumulation on the futurecast. Snow amounts will be generally light with this afternoon’s storm system. A coating-2” will be possible by late evening in WNY. Much heavier snow will develop overnight southwest of Rochester once more as lake snow from Lake Erie cranks up again. Several feet of snow will be possible in sustained lake snow areas in Genesee and Wyoming counties tonight and Thursday with a solid 3-6” possible in northern Livingston County as well.

Currently it’s frigid in WNY. Many areas have temperatures in the upper teens or low 20s with single digit wind chills and that noticeable wind out of the south. Local spotters show temperatures in the low 20s at this point. The neighborhood forecast shows the light snow moving in late this afternoon, but the temperature won’t fall. We’ll see the readings stay in the mid-20s throughout the night. On the wider view, the futurecast finally shows this intense lake snow band breaking up early Friday morning southwest of Rochester. Closer to Rochester some lake snow from Lake Ontario will be possible Friday, but this snow will be much less intense than the snow observed in Buffalo yesterday.

The forecast for today shows increasing clouds at 3 p.m. with a temperature near 24 in Rochester. By 7 tonight we expect some snow showers. The temperature will be in the mid-20s. At 10pm the general light snow will taper, most areas will see a coating -2” of snow. Tonight’s low will be in the mid-20s with snow showers and flurries near Rochester. Areas south of the Thruway may find up to 12” of snow by sunrise, especially in Genesee and Wyoming counties.

The 7-day forecast does show some slow improvement by the weekend. Any lake effect snow Friday will taper heading into Saturday. Friday’s high will be near 30 with Saturday’s high near 40. A few rain showers will move in for Sunday and Monday, but the temperature will be dramatically warmer. Sunday’s high will be near 50 with Monday reaching 57. All signs point to another substantially colder air mass moving in for mid-late of next week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 6:59 am

Today's Poll: How epic has this snow storm been?

post by Howard B. Owens in polls

In a weather alert this morning, the National Weather Service called the storm "epic," hence, the question.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Closures and cancellations for Wednesday, Nov 19

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

These are the closing and cancellations we've been notified about so far:

  • Leadership Genesee, We the People session
  • Alexander Central 
  • Batavia City Schools
  • Notre Dame and St. Joe's
  • Pembroke Central Schools
  • Pavilion Central Schools
  • Byron-Bergen Central Schools
  • DAV Transportation pickups From the Batavia VAMC
  • Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools
  • Le Roy Family Medical Care
  • Pembroke Diagnostics at 860 Main St. Road, Corfu
  • Le Roy Diagnostics at 8745 Lake St. Road, Le Roy
  • Tountas Family Care Center at 3 Tountas Ave., Le Roy
  • Dr. Marlin Salmon's office will be closed today at Batavia Pediatric office location, which is Dr. Brad Ecker's office
  • Lucky Ducky Daycare
  • Genesee ARC
  • Elba Central School District
  • GCC, Batavia campus
  • Le Roy Central School District
  • All courts in the county, including County Court and City Court
  • Pembroke Family Medicine, all three locations, Pembroke, Batavia, Alexander
  • Le Roy Federal Credit Union
  • Le Roy Curves
  • Grandma’s Luv’n Care Daycare
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Classic Optical
  • The City of Batavia Yard Waste Station
  • Mental Health Association
  • FoodLink Mobile Food Pantry, ​Batavia Assembly of God
  • The Cello Fury performance, scheduled for tomorrow evening at GCC, has been postponed until a later date, to be announced soon. Tickets previously purchased will be honored at that performance.
  • Dr. Basra's office
  • Corfu Village Court
  • The Law Offices of Bonarigo & McCutcheon
  • The Genesee County Animal Shelter will be closed for adoption hours between 1 and 3 p.m. and between 7 and 9 p.m. today.
  • CORRECTION to court closings. The announced closure does not effect town and village courts. Unless otherwise noted, town and village courts are open.
  • Genesee Co. 4-H ACES Club Meeting and 4-H Fur and Feather Club Meeting
  • Genesee Co. Master Gardener Training Orientation
  • The following meetings for tomorrow night, Nov. 20th: Genesee Co. 4-H Swine Club Meeting and 4-H Beef Club Meeting
  • United Pentecostal Church, Wednesday evening service.

Send closing and cancellations to [email protected].

REMINDER: E-mail snow pictures to [email protected].

UPDATE 6:40 a.m., Wednesday: People are writing to ask if the travel bans are still in effect. We've received no notification from the Sheriff's Office nor the County otherwise, so, yes. There are bans in effect for Pembroke, Darien, Alexander, Bethany, Pavilion and Le Roy. There are travel advisories in place for the rest of the county. The state of emergency has not been lifted at this time.

UPDATE 8:42 a.m.: Over the scanner, no official letter yet, the travel ban has been lifted for all parts of the county under the ban except Darien. Darien remains under a limited travel ban (secondary roads). No word on the travel advisory of state of emergency (which is just a matter of being eligible for state and federal aid). (Right after posting this, we received the letter.)

UPDATE 2:26 p.m.: The travel ban in Darien has been lifted. There are currently no travel bans in Genesee County.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm

If things get worse, National Guard may be needed in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

County officials have declared a state of emergency.

That will primarily make Genesee County eligible for state and federal assistance, and that may be needed, according to Highway Superintendent Tim Hens.

"Depending on how things go tonight in Darien and Alexander, we may need to call in the National Guard," Hens said.

The guard could bring in heavy equipment to help move snow.

Darien, Alexander and Corfu has been hit by as much as five or six feet of snow, Hens said.

With people venturing out despite the travel bans, it's been difficult to plow roads. There have been extra plow trucks in those parts of the county provided by the county, state and towns and it's still not enough.

"The amount of snow is just phenomenal," Hens said. "You're talking five, six inches an hour. There are cars and trucks stranded, intersections plugged up. It's literally impossible for the plows to get around. There are roads in Darien that haven't seen a plow yet. That's no exaggeration. I wouldn't doubt it a bit. They're simply not able to keep up."

Members of the county's plow team have been on duty since 8 p.m. last night and most haven't had more than a two-hour break since then.

It's one of the largest storms Hens has ever seen.

The City of Batavia is approaching the 24-inch mark for 24 hours, which is considered a top 10, 10-year storm. 

The southwest parts of the county are well beyond that for storm totals.

Hens said there is the potential for 70 inches of snow in Darien.

And there's more snow coming tonight, light snow tomorrow and heavy snow predicted for Thursday.

The county may also bring in large snow blower trucks from Livingston and Wyoming counties.

"Those will be a sight to see," Hens said.

The emergency order was signed by County Legislature Chairman Ray Cianfrini. 

"It's a public safety matter," Cianfrini said. "We don't want people on the road who shouldn't be out there."

There are travel bans in effect for Darien, Pembroke, Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion, and a travel advisory in effect for the rest of the county.

The bans and state of emergency will remain in effect until further notice.

A lake effect snow warning is in place until Friday.

UPDATE 5:07 p.m.: The Red Cross has announced the opening of a shelter in Alexander, at the Alexander Fireman’s Recreation Hall, 10708 Alexander Road.

UPDATE 5:09 p.m.: There's now a travel ban in Le Roy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Snow plow needed to reach CO poisoning victim on Route 20, Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in Darien

A person in a vehicle has reportedly suffered CO poisoning on Route 20 in Darien. The ambulance is unable to reach the location and a snow plow is requested to respond.

UPDATE 3:19 p.m.: We've heard no further updates on this situation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Continued heavy snow predicted today, with another heavy band on Thursday

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Forecast for Genesee County by Mark McLean, weatherman for 13WHAM, official news partner of The Batavian:

Southern portions of Genesee County and northern portions of Wyoming County will likely see snowfall rates between 2 to 4 inches through the remainder of today. This will produce several more feet of snow in areas that have already had several feet of snow. The snow band (as of this writing) has lifted back to near Batavia, but will continue to oscillate over the same areas through the morning commute Wednesday.

A weak storm system will move into WNY on Wednesday and disrupt the lake snow by midday. This general light snow with this next storm system (less than 2 inches) will provide a clean-up break before the next round of very heavy lake snow Wednesday night and Thursday. The Lake Erie snow band on Thursday will produce similar snow rates and intensities with near zero visibility at times, snow rates over 2 inches an hour and treacherous to impossible driving conditions in portions of Genesee, Wyoming, and possibly western Monroe/Livingston counties.

All told, this will likely be a top 10 lake snow event for Lake Erie with many areas seeing more than 4 feet of snow by the end of the week.

UPDATE 3 p.m.: Added a couple of photos taken a little while ago on Harvester Avenue showing the heavy snow and low visibility conditions currently in the city.

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