Former Md. lawmaker among those living through blizzard in Buffalo

Two former Maryland residents are sharing their stories of living through a deadly blizzard in Buffalo, New York.

A father tells his story of surviving the storm with his two children and dog after being trapped for hours inside their car. And a former state representative shared how his community came together during the blizzard.

Former Md. lawmaker, Bill Bronrott

Former Maryland state delegate Bill Bronrott on getting through the recent blizzard in Buffalo, WTOP's Kate Ryan reports.


Bill Bronrott, a former Maryland state delegate for Montgomery County, said the weather reports heading into the Christmas weekend at his adopted home in Buffalo, New York, didn’t rattle him at first.

That was until he heard his Buffalo neighbors worrying about blizzard forecasts.

“When Buffalonians start to say, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this,’ then you know you might be in trouble,” Bronrott told WTOP.

That storm ripped through Western New York Friday and Saturday, killing 28 people in one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the area. Up to 9 more inches of snow could fall in some areas of Western New York through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Bronrott, who also worked as a transportation official for the Obama administration, spoke to WTOP about how he and his neighbors dealt with the storm.

Bronrott said he thought that he’d prepared for the winter this year, especially after purchasing a snowblower. However, it was stored inside a shed in his backyard, “which I can’t get to because of the snow drifts” that topped 4 feet by Monday. So he was stuck using just a shovel.

As the storm arrived on Friday, Bronrott tweeted a video showing the extremely low visibility, which made it nearly impossible to see across the street.

Immediately following the storm, Bronrott said a number of neighbors on his street were without power. He ended up taking in three people.

“Everyone was affected in one way or another,” he said. “We made the best of it, and it turned out to be kind of a nice time connecting with neighbors.”

There was one resident of his Buffalo home making the most of the storm and its aftermath: his 6-month-old Spinone Italiano puppy Lucia.

“Fortunately she’s grown a lot, so you know she’s able to move through the snow pretty well,” he said.

Six-month-old Spinone Italiano puppy, Lucia, enjoying the snowfall in Bill Bronrott’s backyard in Buffalo, New York. (Courtesy Bill Bronrott)

By midday Monday, snow removal crews had made it to Bronrott’s street to begin the long, labor-intensive job of digging out. The National Weather Service said the snow total at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 49.2 inches (1.25 meters) at 10 a.m. Monday.

“They’re clearing a path that is resulting in 6, maybe 8-foot walls of snow,” he said.

Through it all, the former Maryland delegate said the storm did emphasize something the city is known for: neighborliness and coming together in hard times.

“Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors, and when we go through trying times like this, I’ve learned that they really do come through,” he said.

Former Gaithersburg resident Ditjak Ilunga

A father from Gaithersburg tells his story of surviving the blizzard

Imagine being stuck in your car for 14 hours with your children and dog — in the Buffalo Blizzard. It’s the survival story of a man from Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Ditjak Ilunga said he and he two daughters, ages 6 and 16, along with their dog, were trapped in their car as the storm raged around them.

“It was shaking, the car,” he told WTOP. “I was scared.”

As the car was running out of gas, Ilunga called his pastor and prayed, he said, before deciding to walk with his children and their dog through the storm.

He put his six-year-old daughter on his back for the five-minute walk to shelter.

Ilunga recalls thinking, “I don’t know if we’re going to make it, but we did we pushed and pushed.”

Once they were inside, he said he was overcome with emotion.

“The first thing when I made to the shelter, I cried because I knew I could have died there with my kids,” Ilunga said.

The family made it by sleeping two nights in the shelter on top of trash bags that had been stuffed with clothes.

They finally dug out their car and made it to Toronto to see family for Christmas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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