BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The death toll from a snowstorm rose to 27 in western New York, authorities said Monday, as the region assessed the ravages of one of its worst disasters ever. meteorological history. Much of the rest of the United States was affected by harsh winter conditions.
People who lost their lives in and around Buffalo were found in cars, houses and snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow; others, when emergency teams were unable to respond in time to medical crises.
President Joe Biden said his prayers were with the families of the victims, and offered federal aid to the state.
Nationwide, the storm is responsible for at least 50 deaths, and rescue and recovery efforts continued Monday.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz described the blizzard as “the worst of our lives” and warned there could be more deaths. Some people were trapped in their cars for more than two days, he said.
“It is a horrible situation where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not the end yet,” he said Monday. The National Weather Service reported that another 23 centimeters (9 inches) of snow could fall in some areas by Tuesday.
Scientists say the climate change crisis may have contributed to the intensity of the storm. That’s because the atmosphere can carry more water vapor, which acts as fuel, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus.
The blizzard ripped through western New York Friday and Saturday, stranding motorists, knocking out power and preventing emergency crews from reaching frozen homes and stuck cars.
With many grocery stores closed in the Buffalo area and car restrictions in place, some people pleaded on social media for food and diaper donations.
The ferocity of the storm tested an area accustomed to snowfall.
“It doesn’t matter that there were 1,000 teams and 10,000 more people, nothing could have been done in that period. It was that bad,” said Poloncarz, the county official. “I know people find it hard to believe, but it was like staring at a white wall for 14 or 18 hours straight.”
However, some relief will come this week as temperatures are forecast to rise slowly, according to Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Extreme weather conditions stretched from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande (or Bravo) River along the Mexican border.
About 3,410 domestic and international flights were canceled as of 3 p.m. Eastern time Monday, according to the FlightAware tracking site. According to the site, Southwest Airlines had canceled 2,497 flights, about 60% of its scheduled flights and about 10 times more than any other major US carrier.
Southwest said the weather was improving, which would “stabilize and improve our situation.”
According to FlightAware data, airports across the United States experienced cancellations and delays, including Denver, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle, Baltimore, and Chicago.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the storm came just over a month after the region was inundated by another “historic” snowfall. Between the two storms, snow totals aren’t far off the 95.4 inches (242 centimeters) the area typically sees in an entire winter season.
The National Weather Service put the snow total at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at 49.2 inches (1.25 meters) as of 10 a.m. Monday. According to authorities, the airport will remain closed until Wednesday morning.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown described the harrowing task of recovering storm victims from cars, homes and streets.
“Our police officers are human. It is painful to find members of your community who have passed away,” the mayor said, adding that the blizzard victims “were trying to get out on foot during storm conditions, became disoriented and died on the street.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles; Jonathan Mattise and John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Ron Todt in Philadelphia; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; and Wilson Ring in Stowe, Vermont, contributed to this report.