Buffalo police commissioner expects storm death toll to rise

Weather

(NewsNation) — As first responders continue going through welfare checks from a winter storm in Buffalo that’s killed dozens, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia says they are “preparing ourselves for more bodies to be discovered.”

“This is where we are finding some people that have become deceased in their homes that don’t have power,” he said. “It’s going to be very grueling as we have very high snow drifts, a significant amount of snow, and we are very certain that we are going to find more people as the snow begins to melt and as the plowing process goes through.”

The massive storm dropped over 4 feet of snow in in some areas of Buffalo starting on Christmas Eve, and the rest of the U.S. is still reeling from a ferocious winter storm as well, with deaths also reported in other parts of the country along with power outages.

In Erie County, where Buffalo is, officials said the blizzard was the worst storm “in a lifetime,” even for an area known for heavy snow. The dead in the city were found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow, while others perished when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises.

During the worst of the storm, Gramaglia said, police could not drive through the snow.

“We could go no further. We had officers that had to abandon their vehicles and seek refuge,” he said. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

National guard members check on residents, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y., following a winter storm. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Gramaglia said police have teams working on the backlog of welfare calls they’ve gotten, with some going back to Friday night.

“It’s a long process, and we’re working through it,” he said.

In addition, the city of Buffalo has set up operations so people can be transported for medical care, such as dialysis or chemotherapy treatments through its 311 Call and Resolution center.

On Wednesday, the National Guard went door to door in parts of Buffalo to check on people who had lost power, as a deep freeze eased into milder weather.

“We are fearful that there are individuals who may have perished, living alone, or people who are not doing well,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 1998 - 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation