Death toll rises as freezing temperatures, heavy snow hit U.S.
A “once-in-a-lifetime” blizzard has killed at least 55 people in the United States, including 25 in western New York’s Erie County, officials said Monday morning.
The number of deaths from the monstrous storm was expected to grow as snow continued to blanket Erie County, leaving roads in many areas impassable, including the majority of Buffalo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference.
The full brunt of the storm was being felt in western parts of New York, which had become a warzone, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Sunday, with looting incidents and roads blocked by emergency vehicles.
Reports have it that a band of heavy snow in the Buffalo area was producing two to three inches of hourly snowfall, the National Weather Service said in a 3 a.m. bulletin, warning of rapidly deteriorating conditions.
Stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the Mexican border, the storm has killed at least 46 people as of yesterday morning, according to an NBC News tally. The deaths were recorded in 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
“Blinding blizzards and freezing rain have also knocked out power supply for thousands of residents across New York state, with 15,000 people in the Buffalo National Grid remaining without electricity. Restoration may not occur until today (Tuesday).”
“Thousands of service crew had been deployed to deal with the emergency, which was probably the largest mobilization of utility crews in the history of the state,” Hochul said.
Temperatures have plummeted below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. More than 1,200 flights had been canceled by early Monday, with at least 500 delayed, according to the tracking website FlightAward, trapping holiday-travelers in airports across the country.
The National Weather service said “hazardous travel conditions” were expected to continue over the next few days and that they would slowly ease over the New Year.
“Much of the eastern U.S. will remain in a deep freeze through Monday before a moderating trend sets in today (Tuesday),” it said in a 2:56 a.m. bulletin.
Meanwhile, the western parts of the country were also bracing for an incoming storm, with forecasters warning of a potent surge of moisture into the Pacific northwestern and California on Tuesday, threatening flash floods.