A blizzard that ravaged western New York during the Christmas weekend left more than 20 people dead, officials stated Monday as crews tried to free the region surrounding Buffalo from the worst winter storm for decades.
Snow continued to fall on Buffalo’s top, where it remained for more than four feet (1.2 meters) since Friday’s blizzard. New York’s second-largest city was the site of a severe storm that the Governor called an “epic, once in a lifetime” disaster.
From 13 deaths the previous night, the number of storm-related deaths confirmed in Buffalo and Erie County has risen to 27 on Monday. Mark Poloncarz, county executive, said that the fatalities include people who were found dead in their cars and snowbanks or those who died due to cardiac stress from plowing snow or blowing it.
A “Shovel Smart Alert” was issued by the county warning of heart attack and back injury from excessive shoveling.
According to NBC News, at least 60 people have died in weather-related events across the country. These were caused by an arctic deep freeze, and a sprawling stormfront that swept over the United States for several days. It also extended as far as Mexico’s border.
Over the weekend, the larger storm system caused havoc in travel throughout the country and forced thousands of passengers to cancel their flights.
It was the greater Buffalo area, located near Lake Erie, that suffered the most.
According to the National Weather Service, Buffalo Airport had received nearly 50 inches (or 1.27 meters) of snow as of Monday morning.
Even though the blinding windstorms that caused whiteout conditions in some areas for over two days were gone Monday, more snow fell. There was a forecast of more accumulations up to one foot (30 cm) through Tuesday in parts south of Buffalo and north Syracuse.
The roads were still littered with cars, buses and ambulances. Plows were also buried under towering snow drifts. This made it difficult to clear the streets of snow and get to residents who are stranded and needed medical attention. Authorities deployed high-lift tractors as hospital transports.
Many motorists were forced to get out of their cars despite a ban on personal motor travel remaining in place on Monday.
A handful of grocery stores, which had been closed for several days, reopened Monday. People walked more than one mile (1.6km) in the middle of otherwise impenetrable streets to reach them.
A combination of meteorological elements that were supercharged together led to the severe storm. This is a remarkable feat for an area accustomed to winters harsh.
Numbing cold, howling winds and lake-effect snow (the result of moistened air passing over warm lakes) created a storm that New York Governor Kathy Hochul described as the “Blizzard” of ’22.
It was ranked by her and officials from the local government as the most severe snowstorm in Buffalo since the 1977’s blizzard, which killed almost 30 people.
The White House reported that U.S. President Joe Biden made Monday’s federal emergency declaration in New York for state government. This authorized U.S. assistance to support state and local recovery efforts.
My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones over the holiday weekend. “You are in Jill and my prayers,” Biden stated in an earlier tweet message.
On Monday, hundreds of National Guard soldiers assisted local police and emergency workers. They rescued residents still stuck in their cars or homes without power and performed basic checks.
Poloncarz stated that many emergency personnel became trapped by the snowy storms over the weekend. Special teams were needed to rescue them.
Poloncarz stated that thousands of Erie County residents had their power back by Monday morning. However, poweroutage.us still shows 14,000 people without electricity in the state.
Poloncarz appealed to motorists not to drive on narrow streets that were cleared by emergency workers and utility workers to allow them to navigate through a maze of snowbanks and buried cars.
There are many cars pointing in the wrong direction, all over the roads. These cars have been basically plowed in, and need to be excavated and towed. Poloncarz stated that it would take some time to get rid of them.