Snow continues in Buffalo, death toll rises to 34

Weather

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Storm-battered Buffalo braced Tuesday for fresh snow while still striving to recover from an epic blizzard that killed at least 34 people, stranded others in cars for days and shuttered the city’s airport.

“The blizzard conditions, of course, are gone,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference. “But we’re going to be responding, in some ways, to this blizzard for a number of days as they continue to open up the city of Buffalo.”

The National Weather Service predicted that as much as 2 inches of snow could fall Tuesday in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, the second-largest city in New York, with about 275,000 residents.

While that’s nothing like the massive storm that dropped over 4 feet of snow in some places starting on Christmas Eve, “any additional snowfall that Buffalo may continue to have today is going to be impactful,” said National Weather Service lead forecaster Bob Oravec.

“The biggest impact is going to be how it hinders the removal of the previous snowfall,” he said.

The rest of the United States is reeling from the ferocious winter storm, with at least an additional two dozen deaths reported in other parts of the country, and power outages in communities from Maine to Washington state. On the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota, there were plans to use snowmobiles Tuesday to reach residents after food boxes were delivered by helicopter and trucks over the weekend, the tribe said.

In Buffalo, the dead were found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow, others when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises. Poloncarz called the blizzard “the worst storm probably in our lifetime,” even for an area known for heavy snow.

State and military police were sent Tuesday to keep people off Buffalo’s snow-choked roads. Law enforcement was stationed at entrances to the city and major intersections to enforce a driving ban. While there were some signs of progress  — suburban roads and most major highways in the area reopened  — there is still work to do, especially as some “just are ignoring the driving ban,” Poloncarz said.

“I want people to understand there’s a lot of roads that are completely blocked right now, that have no access whatsoever,” Poloncarz said. “People are trying to drive in these roads or trying to get into these neighborhoods, and they can’t. Please, please, you heard the mayor beg — I’m begging. Stay home.”

Trisha LoGrasso and her family were still huddled around a space heater in a makeshift hut in her Buffalo living room Monday. She was without heat because of a gas leak, the temperature inside the home was 42 degrees, and burst pipes left her with no running water.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is the worst storm I’ve ever seen,” the 48-year-old said.

Normally, as a Buffalo council member, Rasheed N.C. Wyatt is able to be out and about when disaster hits his community.  But he wasn’t even able to get off his street during the storm. Wyatt told NewsNation his road was just plowed on Tuesday. 

“It’s been very, very difficult because you really haven’t been able to get around,” he said.

The number of people who died has been hard to fathom, Wyatt said.

“We can’t go out and help those that needed help,” he said. “I was looking at the Facebook feed and seeing the desperation on many people’s feed, about trying to get to loved ones…I was forwarding information to the National Guard, and I don’t know if they were able to help those people, but it was just a helpless situation.”

At the end of the day, cleaning up from the storm will be a long process, Wyatt said, and city residents are going to help each other the best they can. 

“I’m so blessed to see that the city of good neighbors are helping one another, because that was really the only thing that we could do,” Wyatt said. “We had ambulances and snow plows being caught up in the snow, so we really had to depend on one another the best we could.”

President Joe Biden offered federal assistance Monday to hard-hit New York, while Gov. Kathy Hochul toured the aftermath in Buffalo — her hometown — and called the blizzard “one for the ages.” Almost every fire truck in the city became stranded Saturday, she said.

Hochul, a Democrat, noted the storm came a little over a month after the region was inundated with another “historic” snowfall. Between the two storms, snowfall totals are not far off from the 95.4 inches the area normally sees in an entire winter season.

The National Weather Service said the snow total at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 49.2 inches at 10 a.m. Monday. Officials say the airport will be shut through Wednesday morning.

Some 2,900 domestic and international U.S. flights were canceled Tuesday as of about noon Eastern time, according to the tracking site FlightAware.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines that left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid the winter storm. Many airlines were forced to cancel flights, but Southwest was by far the leader.


Associated Press journalist Julie Walker in New York and NewsNation staff contributed to this report.

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