Death toll from historic winter storm hits 60 as snow continues to wreak havoc
The ferocious winter storm that gripped most of the United States over Christmas weekend killed at least 60 people, and the death toll is expected to rise as hard-hit Buffalo struggles to dig more than four feet of snow.
Stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande on the Mexican border, the storm claimed at least 60 lives Tuesday morning, according to an NBC News tally.
The fatalities included 28 people who died in western New York, where forecasters predicted up to 9 more inches of snow could fall through Tuesday.
Emergency crews in the area have been working feverishly to rescue stranded residents – and officials have warned the death toll could rise.
« We can see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not the end yet, » Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference Monday. « We are not there. »
In Buffalo, where 20 people lost their lives in whiteout conditions, bodies were discovered in vehicles and under snow banks.
One of them was Anndel Taylor, 22, from Charlotte, North Carolina, who was caught in the blinding storm as she walked home from work, the WSOC reported.
The tragic woman, stuck in her car for 18 hours, managed to send her family a heartbreaking final video which showed her vehicle covered in snow.
On Monday evening, President Biden issued a federal emergency declaration for the Empire State, authorizing government assistance to state and local governments.
“My heart is with those who lost loved ones this holiday weekend. You are in my and Jill’s prayers,” the president said in a tweet earlier in the speech.
Governor Kathy Hochul, who called the storm « the blizzard of the century, » said it was too early to let our guard down and urged people to stay home.
The weather also continued to upend air travel plans, with 90% of flights canceled at Buffalo airport and Southwest Airlines – the largest carrier in 23 of the top 25 travel markets in the United States – cutting more than 60 % of its 2,510 flights, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.
Follow all coverage of the deadly winter storm in Western New York
Late Monday evening, more than 3,900 flights within, to or from the country were canceled, while nearly 8,200 flights were delayed during the freeze.
Over the weekend, temperatures across the United States dipped below zero in the contiguous 48 states.
Of the storm-related deaths, 10 occurred in Ohio, including an electrocuted utility worker and people killed in multiple car crashes.
Six motorists were also killed in crashes in Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky; a Vermont woman struck by a falling branch; a man found frozen in Colorado; and a woman who fell through the ice of the Wisconsin River.
But the greater Buffalo area, bordering Lake Erie, was hardest hit by the weather.
The roads remained littered with vehicles, including ambulances, tow trucks and even plows, which were buried under the towering mounds of snow.
« I just have to offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to this horrible situation, » Poloncarz said.
“I never thought I would face this. I thought the storm we faced in 2014 would have been the worst in which we had 14 fatalities, but it far exceeded it,” he said on Monday.
As of Monday night, driving bans remained in effect for Buffalo, as well as Lackawanna and Cheektowaga, according to the Buffalo News.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown warned residents to stay off the roads.
“You will always be stuck there. Many streets in the city of Buffalo are still impassable. We have plows on the main and secondary networks. We are now on residential streets, but the driving conditions are still very difficult,” he told a press briefing.
The mayor said the city was focusing its efforts on ‘life safety’, plowing to reach stranded motorists, helping emergency personnel respond to medical calls and helping the National Grid access power stations, according to the outlet. .
Jackie Bray, the commissioner of the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said as of Monday evening there were about 12,500 homes in Erie County without power, compared to about 23,000 the previous night.
In Buffalo, doula Melissa Carrick said the blizzard forced her to train a pregnant woman to give birth by phone.
An ambulance transported the woman to a hospital about 45 minutes south of the city because none of the nearest hospitals were accessible.
« In any other normal Buffalo storm? » I would just go because that’s what you do – just drive in the snow,” Carrick said. « But you knew it was different. »
Melissa Osmon and her husband, James, were without power for more than 72 hours in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville – and sought warmth in their car for hours straight.
« We even watched the Buffalo Bills game on our phone, » Osmon said, speaking by phone from his GMC Acadia. « You can see your breath inside the house, – that’s how cold it gets. »
Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, said the climate change crisis may have contributed to the storm’s intensity because the atmosphere can carry more water vapor. , which acts as fuel.
Victor Gensini, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, compared a single weather event to an “at-bat” — and climate to your “batting average.”
« It’s hard to say, but are the dice a little loaded now? » Absolutely,” he said.
With pole wires