Winter storm death toll in Buffalo, New York rises to 27 as residents remain trapped under snow


At least 27 people have died in Erie County, New York, as a result of a massive winter storm that has ripped through much of the United States in recent days, county officials said Monday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 49.

The updated death toll in Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo, comes as parts of western New York remain buried by up to 43 inches of snow, leaving vehicles stranded and thousands without power during the Christmas holidays, just one month away on the region was hit with a historic snowstorm.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference, noting that officials expect between 8 and 12 more inches of snow to fall between Monday morning and 1 Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not helpful as we’re trying to rebuild and clear the streets and get into areas that haven’t yet been” plowed, he said.

Polonkarts tweeted Monday afternoon: “Very sadly, the (county health department) medical examiner has confirmed 2 more deaths from the Blizzard. The total number of deaths now stands at 27. Of those: 3 were from EMS delays; 14 were found outside; 3 were from shovel/blowout cardiac events; 4 were from lack of heat; & 3 were in a vehicle.

While driving bans have been lifted in some communities, one such order remains in effect in Buffalo, Poloncarz said, describing the city as “impassable in most areas,” with abandoned vehicles scattered everywhere. Regardless, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia urged residents to stay home, he told CNN, to keep roads clear for emergency crews.

Even emergency and rescue vehicles sent to help got stuck in the snow as rescue teams and hundreds of snowplow drivers gathered on Christmas Day. Eleven abandoned ambulances were dug up on Sunday, officials said.

See houses frozen by a massive winter storm

01:00 hours

– Source: CNN

“We had to send specialized rescue teams to go get the rescuers,” Poloncarz told “CNN This Morning” on Monday, adding that it was the worst storm he could remember. “It was just awful and it was awful for 24 hours straight.”

“We’re used to snow here, we can handle the snow,” he said. “But with the wind, the blinding views – it was pitch white – and the extreme cold, it was some of the worst conditions any of us had ever seen.”

Winter storm death toll in Buffalo, New York rises to 27 as residents remain trapped under snow

The storm drew widespread comparisons to the famous Buffalo blizzard of 1977. Poloncarz said at a news conference Monday that “the ferocity of the current storm … is worse than the blizzard of 1977.” And at a news conference Sunday, New York Gov. Cathy Hochul called this storm “the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long history.”

Hundreds of National Guard soldiers have been sent to help with rescue operations in New York. State police have been involved in more than 500 rescues through Sunday, including the birth of a baby, Hochul said.

On Monday, Hochul reiterated her plea for residents to follow local traffic closures so officials can continue plowing and salting roads and removing “dozens and dozens of vehicles” she said are abandoned.

“It’s still a dangerous situation to be out there,” she said at an afternoon news conference.

While abandoned vehicles litter the snow-covered roads, conditions are tough inside homes as well.

Some residents stayed in their homes for more than two days, some without power in the freezing cold, Hochul said Sunday — not because of a lack of resources, but the challenges utility companies face with mobility and access. As of Sunday evening, however, 94.5 percent of Erie County residents and 87 percent of Buffalo residents had power restored, Hochul said.

As of Monday, fewer than 10,000 customers were without power, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at an afternoon press conference, adding that temperatures in his own home had dropped to 40 degrees. “We certainly understand the challenges that so many families are going through and the frustration that people are facing.”

Buffalo will continue to experience snow and cold temperatures Monday, with an expected high of 23 degrees during the day and a low of 21 degrees at night, according to the National Weather Service.

Winter Storm Warnings remain in effect in New York for Jefferson and Lewis counties until 1 p.m. Tuesday. Forecasts show an additional 8 to 16 inches of snow could fall, according to the National Weather Service. Erie County could see another 4 to 8 inches and is under a winter weather warning.

Over the past week, a lingering winter storm has blanketed much of the country with dangerously low temperatures and freezing winds, while also bringing with it widespread power outages and thousands of flight cancellations.

Nationwide, about 75,000 customers were without power Monday afternoon, the majority of them in Washington state, according to Power outage.USA. Since the start of the storm, the number of outages has exceeded a million customers at times.

Electricity wasn’t the only utility affected: Jackson, Mississippi, issued a boil water notice Sunday after its water system lost pressure due to a line break “likely caused by weather.” Facebook officials said. The city – which only two months ago overcame a separate prolonged water crisis – distributed water to residents throughout Christmas Day.

The storm also hampered travel in the US during the busy holiday weekend with more than 5000 fields canceled on Friday, more than 3,400 flights canceled on Saturday and more than 3,100 canceled for Christmas.

About 5400 flights entry or exit from U.S. airports has been canceled as of 4 p.m. ET Monday, according to the tracking site FlightAware. The total includes more than 2,500 flights canceled by Southwest Airlines, according to FlightAware. Southwest acknowledged in a statement that it was “experiencing disruptions to our network as a result of (the winter storm’s) lingering effects on our entire operation.”

A separate Buffalo airport, which closed Friday due to “hazardous weather conditions” and saw 43 inches of snow, is expected to remain closed until late Wednesday morning, the Niagara Border Transportation Authority said on Twitter.

Blankets of snow cover a neighborhood, December 25, 2022, in Buffalo, New York.

Multiple storm-related deaths have been reported in several states since the arrival of the brutal weather. In addition to the deaths in New York, the deaths included:

Colorado: Police in Colorado Springs have reported two cold-related deaths since Thursday, with one man found near a building’s power transformer possibly seeking warmth and the other camped out in an alley.

Kansas: Three people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents, the Highway Patrol said Friday.

Kentucky: Three people have died in the state, officials said, including one involving a car crash in Montgomery County.

Missouri: One person is dead after a caravan slid off an icy road and into a frozen creek, Kansas City police said.

Ohio: Nine people have died in weather-related crashes, including four in a Saturday morning crash on Interstate 75 when a tractor-trailer crossed the median and collided with an SUV and a pickup truck, authorities said.

Tennessee: The Department of Health on Friday confirmed one storm-related death.

Wisconsin: The State Patrol on Thursday reported one fatal crash due to the wintry weather.

• Vermont: A Castleton woman has died after a tree fell on her home, according to the police chief.

A man clears snow-covered roads with a backhoe loader in Buffalo, New York, United States on December 26, 2022.

The powerful system continues to move away from the northeast, but many cities remain covered in thick snow. In separate 24-hour intervals, Baraga, Michigan received 42.8 inches of snow, while Henderson Harbor, New York, received 40.8 inches.

Meanwhile, lake-effect snow will continue to create hazardous travel conditions over the next few days, and conditions are expected to slowly improve through the week.

The lingering lake-effect snow blowing down from the Great Lakes will slowly become less intense, but the arctic air enveloping much of the eastern half of the nation will be slow to moderate, according to National Weather Service.

The low pressure system is forecast to move further into Canada as another system speeds across the northern US on Monday, bringing snow from the Northern Plains across the Midwest.

Much of the rest of the eastern part of the country will still be in a deep freeze until Monday before a mild trend begins on Tuesday, forecasters said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct where Gov. Kathy Hochul described the storm as “the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long history.” He was at a Sunday press conference.

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