TORONTO, Ont. – Earlier this week Brian Foster, a professional driver for Ontario-based J.G. Drapeau Transport, made a delivery he’ll never forget.
On Tuesday, the snowfall in Buffalo, N.Y. shocked residents when an incredible seven feet of white fluffy stuff covered their roads, yards, and cars. Buffalo and surrounding area were (and still are) in a “snow-pocalypse” as it has been dubbed on social media, because of the lake-effect, a weather phenomenon that happens when cold air moves across warm water (Lake Erie) and forms steam clouds.
A travel and driving ban were issued in the city, pro-sports games have been postponed and relocated and residents have been opening their front doors to a wall of white.
After picking up a load in Indiana, Foster was driving back up to deliver in Fort Erie on Tuesday afternoon. He was just 30 kilometres west of Buffalo, in a housing subdivision when the unrelenting snowfall filled up the roads.
“I was driving along and I just couldn’t go anymore,” said Foster, 65, who has been a professional driver since 1979 and has been driving with J.G. Drapeau for 34 years. “There was too much snow. So I pulled over and then a neighbour came over and asked me if I was okay and they invited me into their house…they fed me and gave me a place to sleep so that was very nice of them.”
Foster was one of the lucky drivers who just happened to be in the right place at the right time – parking in a subdivision with kind residents. Reports of some truckers running out of water and food in their cab have been surfacing of late because of how long they’ve been trapped on the sides of the highways.
When he awoke Wednesday morning, Foster said he went out to his truck to try and dig himself out. To his dismay, snowplows – what was supposed to be a saving grace – came by and buried his truck deeper in the snow.
“I tried listening to the news to see what was going to happen and what everyone was going to do but nothing was happening fast enough,” said Foster.
Eventually a tow truck came to pull Foster out on Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t smooth sailing as more snow came pouring down. He said he didn’t travel more than seven miles before the roads were closed again. Luckily, he parked near a Tim Hortons and eventually got to sleep that night.
On Thursday morning Foster woke up to a city that was again lifeless. The Tim Hortons he had parked in was closed, so breakfast wasn’t an option. He carried on with the water bottles he had stored in his cab.
He eventually made it to the Fort Erie Truck Stop Thursday evening after being escorted by a state vehicle, where he got to eat and shower and take a much needed rest.
“It was a real mess, it was a nightmare,” he said of the whole ordeal. “There were lots of trucks I saw that were stranded.”
Foster said he was lucky and thankful that he was taken in by the kind family on that first night.
“If I had to stay one more night (in Buffalo), I would have been in big trouble,” he said. “I was out of food and I was on my last bottle of water.”
Additionally, Foster’s truck came out of Buffalo unscathed and without any sort of damage.
He added the mood in the city wasn’t one of panic or worry, but that he saw and heard of a lot of good deeds going on and that many people were being rescued and sent to hotels.
When Margaret Hogg, general manager of J.G. Drapeau heard Foster, as well as another one of her drivers, was stuck in Buffalo she said she felt sick.
“My insides turned completely,” she said. “I haven’t slept since. Last night when I got the phone call around 6 p.m. from the dispatcher saying he made it across my heart just kind of starting singing again. It’s one of those moments that make you just pray and think about it constantly.”
Hogg said that the first thing she did when she saw Foster was give him a hug.
“He’s like a brother to me,” she said.
Despite the circumstances, Foster was able to make his delivery and Hogg says his efforts will not go unrewarded.
“I think both drivers deserve a nice weekend away,” she said saying that she would be organizing for both of them to have a short trip with their spouses.
Hogg said the other J.G. Drapeau driver that was stuck in the Buffalo snowstorm has been re-routed. He is currently going through Sarnia area and is doing fine.
Kevin Hall, vice-president of Keith Hall and Sons Transport based in Burford, Ont. also has as a driver who has been stranded in Buffalo since Tuesday.
According to Hall, his driver Peter Lucci was delivering in Buffalo on Tuesday morning and got empty early. Lucci decided to park at a truck stop because of the worsening weather and road conditions.
Hall said that Lucci has been in his cab since Tuesday, but because there is a restaurant and facility at the truck stop, his supplies have been good so far.
“(We are) just waiting for driver to let us know when he has been dug out, at the mercy of the locals with big shovels,” said Hall.
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface