‘Life-and-death situation’: About 30 people left stranded at Target store during Buffalo blizzard
Jessica Sypniewski said she had never seen a blizzard this bad in her 33 years of living in the Buffalo area. Her family was among dozens who were forced to spend part of their Christmas waiting out the storm in a Target store.
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – About 30 people were forced to spend part of their Christmas weekend in a Target store while they waited out the blizzard that crippled the Buffalo area.
Jessica Sypniewski, of West Seneca, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, said she was headed across town Friday to pick up family members to bring them back to her house. She said she didn’t encounter any problems on the way there, but the journey home quickly became treacherous.
"On our way back is when the blizzard came, and it came fast, and it came hard," she said.
Sypniewski said the blinding snow made it impossible to navigate safely.
"You couldn’t see 2 inches in front of you," she said. "I’ve been here 33 years, and I’ve never experienced anything like this in my entire life."
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Sypniewski said she used a mapping app on her phone to find the nearby Target plaza in Cheektowaga, another suburb of Buffalo. She said her group of six first stopped at a grocery store in the shopping center, but employees would not let them inside. However, the Target store next door welcomed them.
"When we first got there, I felt so relieved," she said. "I started crying, and that was seriously a life-and-death situation out there."
Sypniewski said seven Target employees and six other people were already sheltering inside the store when her family arrived. She said that by Christmas Eve, about 30 people sought refuge at the big-box store.
She shared images of their in-store holiday on social media, showing people resting on inflatable mattresses from the camping section and laying their heads on pillows from the home goods department. In one picture, a group of people can be seen waiting at the in-store Starbucks for warm drinks as the winter storm raged outside.
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Sypniewski said the kids were in good spirits on Friday night, but it was a different story when Christmas Eve rolled around.
"Once my son knew that Christmas was the next day … he was very upset," she said.
Sypniewski said she assured her son that Santa Claus would still make his deliveries even if they weren’t at home.
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Sypniewski said she and her family were able to get home safely by Saturday afternoon, but some people were forced to shelter in the store until the afternoon of Christmas Day.
"I cannot say enough to the Target employees who opened their doors to us and have provided everything we have needed," she wrote in a Facebook post. "You guys are literally lifesavers."
Buffalo's airport reported 51.5 inches just with the most recent storm. So far over 92 inches of snow has buried Buffalo just through this winter season, according to the National Weather Service. That is about what the city sees in an average year.