Death toll in Western New York rises to 27 from storm cold and chaos

BUFFALO, NY (AP) — The death toll from a pre-Christmas blizzard that paralyzed the Buffalo area and much of the country rose to 27 in western New York, authorities said Monday, as the region tightened. I was coming out of one of the worst weather related storms. disasters in its history.

The dead have been found in their cars, houses and in snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow. The storm that battered much of the country is now responsible for at least 48 deaths across the country, and rescue and recovery efforts continue Monday.

The blizzard roared through western New York Friday and Saturday, stranding motorists, knocking out power and preventing emergency crews from reaching residents in frozen homes and stuck cars.

Huge snowdrifts nearly covered cars on Monday and there were thousands of houses, some festooned with unlit festive displays, pitch black from lack of power.

The massive storm is expected to claim more lives as it trapped some residents inside homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

Extreme weather stretched from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande River along the Mexican border. About 60% of the US population faced some sort of winter weather watch or warning, with temperatures dropping dramatically below normal from the Rocky Mountains east to the Appalachians.

The National Weather Service said on Sunday that frigid Arctic air “enveloping much of the eastern half of the United States” would slowly recede.

Buffalo saw hurricane-force winds and snow causing blowout conditions that crippled emergency response efforts.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said nearly all of the city’s fire trucks were stranded on Saturday and implored people Sunday to respect the region’s driving ban. The National Weather Service said the snow total at Buffalo Niagara International Airport was 43 inches (1.1 meters) as of 7 a.m. Sunday. Officials said the airport would be closed until Tuesday morning.

With snow swirling on virgin and impassable streets, forecasters warned an additional 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) was possible in some areas through early Monday amid 40 mph (64 kph) wind gusts. ). Police said late Sunday that there had been two “isolated” cases of looting during the storm.

Two people died Friday at their homes in suburban Cheektowaga, New York, when emergency crews were unable to arrive in time to treat their medical conditions. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said 10 more people were killed there during the storm, including six in Buffalo, and warned there could be more deaths.

“Some were found in cars, others on the street in snowbanks,” Poloncarz said. “We know that there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days.”

Freezing conditions and power outages had Buffaloans scrambling to get anywhere warm amid what Hochul called the longest sustained blizzard conditions in the city.

Ditjak Ilunga of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was on his way to visit relatives in Hamilton, Ontario, to spend Christmas with his daughters on Friday when his truck got stuck in Buffalo. Unable to get help, they spent hours with their engines running, buffeted by the wind and nearly buried in snow.

At 4 a.m. Saturday, when they were low on fuel, Ilunga made the desperate decision to risk the howling storm to reach a nearby shelter. She carried Destiny, 6, on her back, while Cindy, 16, grabbed her Pomeranian puppy from her, following her tracks through the snow.

“If I stay in this car, I’m going to die here with my children,” Ilunga recalled thinking. She cried as the family entered the shelter doors. “It’s something I will never forget in my life.”

Travelers’ weather woes continued, with hundreds of flight cancellations already and more expected later a bomb cyclone – when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm – developed near the Great Lakes, causing blizzard conditions, including high winds and snow.

The storm knocked out power in communities from Maine to Seattle. According to, fewer than 100,000 customers lost power Monday at 7 am EDT, down from the high of 1.7 million.

The mid-Atlantic grid operator had asked its 65 million consumers to conserve power amid the freeze on Saturday.

Storm-related deaths were reported across the country, from six motorists killed in crashes in Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky to a woman who fell through ice on the Wisconsin River.

In Jackson, Mississippi, city officials announced on Christmas Day that residents now they must boil their drinking water due to bursting water lines in cold temperatures


Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles; Jonathan Mattise in Charleston, West Virginia; Ron Todt in Philadelphia; John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; and Wilson Ring in Stowe, Vermont, contributed to this report.

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