With its football stadium buried under snow just two days before a big playoff game, the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills put out a call for help on Friday, after parts of the Buffalo area received up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow this week.
The response was immediate. Within 90 minutes, hundreds of fans armed with snow shovels rushed to the scene, braving sub-freezing temperatures and the possibility of even more snow squalls. The job pays $20 an hour.
With 300 to 400 people quickly filling all the jobs, the Bills had to update their announcement, saying they no longer needed shovelers due to a “tremendous response from Bills Mafia,” the nickname given to the fan base.
But they kept coming, said Kevin Burns, project manager for Jani-King of Buffalo, the commercial cleaning service that maintains Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.
“We’ve still got 200, 300 people in line,” Burns said from the stadium. “It’s crazy. It’s mostly fans. Some people that need the money, too.”
Burns said hopes to complete the job by Saturday.
Shovelers were hired last week, as well, when Buffalo’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had to be pushed from Sunday to Monday due to “lake effect” snow, triggered when frigid Canadian air pushes over nearby Lake Erie.
When conditions are right, massive amounts of snow can accumulate in a narrow band around the city, which lies on the lake’s eastern end.
Similar calls for shovelers have gone out about 15 times in the past 12 years, Burns said.
More lake effect snow could hit areas surrounding the other Great Lakes into Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, but the squalls should end before kickoff at 6:30 p.m. ET (2330 GMT) on Sunday.
A fast-moving low-pressure system was expected to dump snow on parts of the Midwest, southern Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic on Friday, the weather service said, as the Arctic blast moves south through the Plains and Mississippi Valley.