The devastating winter storm that hit most of the country leading into Christmas weekend brought frigid temperatures and paralyzing snowfall totals across the US. The nationwide death toll has now climbed to 49 people, an update from our last report that 14 people had lost their lives. With 27 of those in Erie County alone, Buffalo Police Commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia, mentioned that at this point in the search-and-rescue mission “they are still recovering bodies.”
Some died from exposure, while others died from natural causes. The commissioner is still asking residents of the Buffalo area to stay inside, and not go out.
Driving bans that had been put in place and were in effect Monday, have now been lifted. Though much of the area, and many roads, remain impassable with abandoned vehicles still scattered everywhere. Emergency vehicles are still getting stuck on these roads, as snow piles.
This storm has been compared to Buffalo’s famous blizzard of 1977, though this storm is most likely the city’s most devastating as its death toll knocks out the loss the 1977 blizzard marked in which 23 people died.
As of Monday, fewer than 10,000 customers are still without power, and winter storm warnings remain in effect in New York for Jefferson and Lewis counties until 1 p.m. Tuesday – with a potential of 8 to 16 more inches of snow.
The extreme winter storm, which hit or affected most of the country last week, bought blizzards to the Buffalo area, freezing several substations and creating deadly conditions during the busy Christmas traveling season. Plaguing the area with such terrible conditions it has not seen since the 1950s, the storm left mass disruption in its path. Now experts are still watching conditions in Buffalo that were supposed to hit 70 mph winds overnight.
13 people died in Erie County, as 26,404 customers in Buffalo lost power earlier in the day on Christmas Sunday. Another person died in Niagara County, in what appears to be carbon monoxide poisoning, which seemed to be caused by heavy snow covering the home’s external furnace which caused carbon monoxide to enter the home.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, stated Sunday evening that the storm isn’t over. She mentioned that they are expecting the storm to rise again, and the death toll to rise with it as another heavy band of snow hits the Buffalo area.
Erie County has put in a driving ban and a suspension of bus, rail, and paratransit services through Monday. While the Buffalo Niagara International Airport said it would remain closed until 11 am Tuesday. Hochul also deployed the National Guard to Erie County Friday to assist residents, though by Saturday nearly every firetruck in Buffalo was stranded and unable to respond.
The city of Buffalo could still pick up another 6 to 8 inches of snowfall. Though it was reported early Sunday that the Buffalo airport had recorded 43 inches of snow. It has already out beat the previous daily snowfall record on Friday. And the National Weather Service stated that by Sunday evening there was a record 97.2 inches of snowfall recorded in the area. No matter what else occurs from this storm in the coming days, it will already go down as the most devasting storm Buffalo has seen in its long winter storm history.