©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman walks her dog at a local park in Hoboken, New Jersey as storm clouds roll past One World Trade Center in New York, U.S., December 23, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz 2/5
By Gabriella Borter and Ahmed Aboulenein
(Reuters) – A deadly snowstorm slammed into Buffalo, New York, on Christmas Day, trapping people in their cars, causing power outages and adding to the death toll from a severe winter storm system that swept across the United States.
According to NBC News, 28 people have died in weather-related incidents so far. Eureka News Now reported 26 deaths as of Sunday morning.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the death toll from the storm rose from three to seven overnight in the Buffalo area of far western New York, where snow continued to fall on Sunday, taking the total accumulation to nearly 1.2 m rose.
Some of the four dead reported Sunday morning were found in cars and some in snow banks, Poloncarz said, adding that the death toll from the storm could rise.
“This is not the Christmas that any of us hoped for or expected, but try to have as merry a Christmas as possible today,” Poloncarz said on Twitter on Sunday. “My deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters she has been in touch with the White House and that the Biden administration will support the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration.
“This will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo. This storm is forever and we’re still in the middle of it,” Hochul said.
A powerful winter storm that brought freezing temperatures from the northern Great Plains to the U.S.-Mexico border moved east on Sunday after knocking out power for millions late last week and causing flight cancellations during the busy holiday travel season.
More than 200,000 homes and businesses across the US East Coast, Texas and Washington state were without power as of Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us, a significant decrease from the 1.8 million who were without power early Saturday. In Buffalo, 16% of residents were without power as of Sunday, officials said.
Temperatures on Christmas morning were still well below average in the central and eastern US, and below freezing even as far south as the Gulf Coast, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Rich Otto said.
In South Florida, iguanas fell from trees, paralyzed by a sharp drop in temperature to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, according to reports and pictures posted to Twitter by local residents.
About 500 motorists were stranded in their vehicles in Erie County from Friday night through Saturday morning and the National Guard was called to help with rescue efforts, Poloncarz said.
A nationwide driving ban was still in effect on Sunday.
Buffalo Airport had registered 43 inches of snow as of 7 a.m. ET (1200 GMT) Sunday, NWS meteorologist Rich Otto said.
“Another one to two feet generally is expected in the Buffalo area before Monday morning,” Otto said. “I think in a way it’s fair to say the worst is over, but there’s still pretty heavy snowfall in the Buffalo area today.”
Officials in Kentucky confirmed that there have been at least three storm-related deaths in that state, while at least two motorists were killed and scores others injured in a 50-vehicle pileup that hit the Ohio Turnpike in both directions on Friday during a snowstorm near Toledo shut down .