Parts of western New York have been buried by up to 43 inches of snow, leaving vehicles stuck and power out for thousands during the Christmas weekend, as a massive winter storm continues to blast much of the US with brutal winter weather, leading to at least 37 deaths nationwide.
Buffalo has been hit by the “most devastating storm in its long storied history,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul told CNN. At least 17 people were confirmed dead across the state by Sunday night as a result of the heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions that rendered roads impassable with zero visibility and froze power substations.
This “lake effect” snow, which forms when cold air moves over the warm waters of the Great Lakes, has buried Western New York just one month after the region was hit by a record-breaking snowstorm.
On Christmas Day, hundreds of plough drivers and rescue workers spread out, and even some of the emergency and recovery vehicles sent to help got bogged down. Officials reported that eleven abandoned ambulances were rescued on Sunday.
“The rescue team was rescuing rescuers … it was so horrible,” Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said during a news conference Sunday. Many of New York’s weather-related fatalities were in Erie County, where some people were found dead in cars and on the street in snowbanks, he said.
According to the Buffalo Police Department, “people found outside and in cars” account for the majority of the reported deaths in Buffalo. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers have been sent to New York to aid in the relief efforts. State police had been involved in over 500 rescues by Sunday, including delivering a baby and helping a man with 4% left on his mechanical heart, the governor said.
Hochul warned residents to stay off the roads through Monday, saying, “We’re still in the throes of this very dangerous life-threatening situation.” Hochul said that despite the hazardous conditions, state and county plough drivers had been out clearing roads nonstop throughout the storm.
According to Poloncarz, who described terrifying road conditions as a scorching blizzard swept through the region on Friday night and Saturday morning, about 500 motorists were stranded in their vehicles. “Think about looking just a few feet in front of you at a sheet of white for more than 24 hours in a row.
And that, he continued, was what it was like outside in the worst of the weather. The snowstorm and whiteout conditions were constant, making it impossible to see. Nobody knew what was going on. Even while hundreds of abandoned cars still line the streets of Buffalo’s snow-covered streets, living conditions inside residences are no better.
Hochul stated during the news conference that some residents have remained in their homes for the past 56 hours, some without power in subzero temperatures. The governor explained that this isn’t due to a lack of funds, but rather a problem with utility providers’ ability to reach remote areas.
According to Hochul, as of late Sunday, electricity has been restored to 94.5 percent of Erie County and 87.3 percent of Buffalo. Even still, Poloncarz reported that as of Sunday night, 12,000 Erie County residences and businesses lacked electricity, with many not receiving power again until Tuesday.
The National Weather Service predicts snowfall and sub-freezing temperatures for Buffalo on Monday, with a high of 23 degrees and a low of 18 degrees.
Storm Leads to Loss of Life Across Multiple States
Extremely low temperatures and wind chills have blanketed a huge portion of the United States for the past week due to the extended winter storm, which has also caused extensive power outages and thousands of travel cancellations.
Residents of Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham were among the more than 10 million people in the South who were sent freeze alerts on Monday. Lows in the teens and twenties are forecasted for the impacted areas, which could destroy crops and cause plumbing to freeze.
As the mercury rises and the polar air begins to retreat, most of these warnings will be lifted on Monday morning. According to PowerOutage.US, on Monday morning, around 90,000. consumers were without electricity across the country. There have been instances since the storm began where more than a million people have been without power.
More than 5,000 flights were canceled in the United States on Friday due to the storm, 3,400 flights were cancelled on Saturday, and 3,100 flights were cancelled on Christmas Day. By 5 a.m. ET on Monday, more than 1,300 flights within, into, and out of the United States had been cancelled.
Numerous storm-related fatalities have been recorded throughout multiple states since the advent of the severe weather. Aside from the New York City fatalities, other places where people have lost their lives include:
Colorado: Since Thursday, two cold-related deaths have been recorded by police in Colorado Springs. One guy was discovered near the electrical transformer of a building, possibly in search of warmth, while another was discovered in a tent in an alleyway.
Kansas: On Friday, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported that three persons had lost their lives in traffic accidents caused by the weather.
Kentucky: Officials reported three deaths across the state, including one fatal car crash in Montgomery County.
Missouri: Police in Kansas City state that one person was killed when their caravan skidded off the road and into a frozen creek.
Ohio: Authorities report nine individuals have perished in weather-related car accidents, four of them in a disaster on Saturday morning on Interstate 75 involving a big tractor-trailer that jumped the median and collided with an SUV and a truck.
Tennessee: On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that one person had died as a result of the storm.
Wisconsin: One deadly accident was blamed on the snow and ice on Thursday, according to the Wisconsin State Patrol.
What to Expect as Storm Moves Away
Even as the massive system responsible for the blizzard and winter weather advisories moves away from the Northeast, much of the region is still blanketed in deep snow. Baraga, Michigan had 42.8 inches of snow in one day, while Watertown, New York got 34.2 inches.
On Christmas Eve, Grand Rapids, Michigan, received a record 10.5 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Warnings for a winter storm have been extended into the next few days in Buffalo, Jamestown, and Watertown, New York.
There may be an additional 8 inches of snowfall in Jamestown, 14 inches in Buffalo, and 3 feet in Watertown, according to the latest weather predictions. Expect gusts of up to 40 miles per hour. Until Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. EST, a lake effect snow warning is in force for the area north of Jamestown, where accumulations of up to 18 inches are expected.
The National Weather Service predicts that the lake-effect snows drifting downwind from the Great Lakes will gradually lessen in intensity, but that the Arctic air that has enshrouded much of the eastern half of the country would be slow to decrease.
Dangerous driving conditions due to lake-effect snows are predicted to persist for the next couple of days, with some improvement forecast later in the week. While the low-pressure system is expected to move farther north into Canada.
Another system will move swiftly across the northern United States into Monday, delivering snow to the northern Plains and Midwest. Forecasters predict that the rest of the eastern United States will remain in a severe freeze through Monday, with temperatures gradually rising starting on Tuesday.
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