Buffalo, New York — Logan Eschrich traveled to Buffalo specifically to see the snowfall, and he stayed for the Sunday shoveling.
The professional storm chaser couldn’t resist when he saw that the Buffalo Bills were asking fans to assist in clearing snow from Highmark Stadium in preparation for their postponed playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was rescheduled for Monday.
Eschrich, who was paid $20 per hour, described the seemingly insurmountable task he and the estimated 85-person shovel crew faced while sniffling and shivering from the cold. The kickoff time of the game, which was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, has been rescheduled to 4:30 p.m. due to wind gusts of up to 30 mph and snow falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour.
“Playing would have been completely impossible.” The next row down was barely visible from our position. And unfortunately, it’s still that way,” Eschrich told The Associated Press by phone in the mid-afternoon. “With shoveling, we made some progress, but not much.”
He claimed that the snow had completely covered the bleacher seats and that it was dangerous to walk the two blocks to the stadium, where he spent the night.
“I’m delighted they implemented the travel restriction,” stated Eschrich, a Live Storms Media employee, who traveled 16 hours north from Alabama in order to capture footage of tornadoes. “There should be no one out here.”
The Buffalo area—which includes the Orchard Park home of the Bills—was largely at a standstill on Saturday and Sunday due to a dangerous lake-effect storm that started on Saturday and was predicted to last through Sunday night. Travel was prohibited.
It was predicted that the storm would drop one to three feet of snow, with Orchard Park seeing the most of the accumulation.
The National Weather Service predicted that Monday would see a chance of snow showers in the morning and a high of 19 degrees (minus 7 Celsius), but with strong wind making it feel like minus 5 (minus 21). The storm’s brunt is expected to subside by Sunday night.
Governor Kathy Hochul of New York stated on Sunday that she anticipated the game to start on time, with enough time left over from the storm’s end to clear the stadium and roads of snow. Hochul and the NFL moved the game to Monday due to concerns about public safety the day before.
Players and staff from the Bills stayed home on Sunday. Travel restrictions at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and northern Erie County had been lifted when the Steelers arrived on Sunday afternoon.
Former Bills center Eric Wood remembered witnessing his first lake-effect storm in November 2014—henceforth known as “Snowvember”—in Buffalo. Over the course of four days, the storm dumped almost seven feet of snow on Orchard Park, forcing the relocation of Buffalo’s home game against the New York Jets to Detroit.
Wood was one of the seven Bills players who needed to have a snowmobile pick him up and take him to the team’s facility in order to be bussed to the airport.
“The whiteout conditions are like nothing I had ever experienced,” said Wood, who’s from Cincinnati. “Until you truly experience this snow and understand its effect, it’s difficult to appreciate how quickly and often without notice such a thing can truly happen.”
The next time Wood saw lake effect snow was during a game against Indianapolis in December 2017, when a storm arrived an hour before kickoff and resulted in a whiteout inside the stadium. The snow fell so quickly that stadium workers had to use blowers to expose the yard lines.
The field was so covered in snow that Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri lost his balance and missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with seconds remaining. LeSean McCoy’s 21-yard touchdown run in overtime gave Buffalo the victory, 13-7. The Bills players threw snowballs and made snow angels to celebrate.
Wood laughed as he recalled, “Fans had a great time watching us slip and slide over the field, but it wasn’t always fun to play in—you’re freezing and all that.”
Wood now treasures the memory, in part because the victory ended the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought.
According to former Bills special teams standout Steve Tasker, the home team typically benefits from the wintry weather.
“It’s not the being able to practice in the bad stuff that makes you ready to play on days like that, it’s living in it that makes you ready,” Tasker said. “Those guys just slap you in the face when they get off the plane, say from Miami or Houston.”
However, Tasker pointed out that the Steelers are used to playing in the cold.
Like Wood, Tasker is a member of the Bills radio broadcast team, so one thing is certain. Even though playing outside was enjoyable, he will cherish his position in the cozy radio booth.
“I’m really content with where I am right now,” Tasker chuckled. “I won’t exchange it for anything,”