ORCHARD PARK — Common sense prevailed when the NFL conferred with New York State and Erick County Buffalo Bills officials and made the decision to push the AFC wild-card game to Saturday's 4:30 p.m.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced the news at a news conference in downtown Buffalo.
“I have been in contact with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the dangerous conditions in Buffalo this weekend,” Hochul said. “In consultation with our emergency response teams, Buffalo Bills leadership and the NFL, the Bills game will be postponed until Monday at 4:30 p.m.”
Kickoff against the Steelers was originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m., but the horrendous weather forecast to descend on the Buffaloes starting Saturday — with Highmark Stadium directly in the path — is going to create dangerous conditions for anyone traveling to the game. .
Never mind how ridiculous it would have been for both teams to try to play in relentless snow and wind expected to blow steadily at 20 to 30 miles per hour with 40 to 50 mph winds. The NFL felt that parking 70,000 people on the roads leading to the stadium, then trying to evacuate them after the game while the storm was still raging, was a huge mistake.
“This is going to be a dangerous storm,” Hochul said. “Storm Bulls is forecast to make landfall Sunday afternoon.”
The Bills, who curiously sent out a tweet announcing the game was being played Sunday 15 minutes before Hochul's news conference, released the following statement:
“Due to public safety concerns in light of the weather emergency in Western New York, Sunday's Steelers-Bills game will be moved to Monday at 4:30 p.m. and televised by CBS. In the interest of public safety, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has consulted with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers as the area prepares for the storm. , it was decided to shift the game to Monday.
Given the unpredictability of these storms, especially where there are heavy snow bands, there's a small chance that Sunday in Orchard Park won't turn out to be terrible.
Think back to last December when an epic storm was predicted to hit the night the Bills hosted the Dolphins in a key Week 15 game. As it turned out, the Storm held off until the fourth quarter and the game was barely affected, although the trip home wasn't great for the fans.
Also, there is no guarantee that Monday's weather won't be problematic. Forecast models still show that snow is possible in Orchard Park with continued winds and bitterly cold temperatures that are not expected to break out of the mid-teens.
However, it looks like the worst part of the storm will be gone by Monday morning, and there's a good chance the stadium and roads and parking lots will be ready for the 4:30 kickoff. Run the game.
Buffalo is still reeling from the 2022 Christmas blizzard that killed 31 people, so state and local officials are on alert to make sure there isn't a repeat of the massive trauma the storm left in its wake.
Hochul declared a state of emergency ahead of Friday's storm, helping the New York State Department of Transportation, the Thruway Authority and several state agencies begin preparations for the storm. Utility crews from other parts of the state are already in the area or on their way to help with what is expected to be widespread power outages due to high winds and the potential for downed trees and power lines.
Hochul also activated 100 members of the New York National Guard who were expected to be in Western New York Saturday morning.
At the local level, Erie County Executive Mark Bolengarz issued a travel advisory scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. The travel ban comes into effect at 9pm on Saturday, meaning no cars will be allowed on the road until further notice, but at least until 6am on Sunday.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. To subscribe to Bill's Blast, Sal's newsletter, published twice weekly during the season, please follow this link:https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast