‘Blizzard of the century’ leaves nearly 50 dead across US

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Buffalo (AFP) – Emergency teams in New York City were scrambling to save stranded residents Monday from what officials called the “blizzard of the century”, a relentless storm that killed at least 25 people in the state and caused Christmas travel chaos in the United States.

Blizzard conditions continue to prevail in parts of the northeastern United States, the stubborn remnants of extreme weather that swept the country for several days and caused widespread power outages, travel delays and at least 47 deaths in nine states.

New York state officials have described severe conditions, particularly in Buffalo, with hours of power outages, bodies being found in vehicles and under snowdrifts, and emergency personnel circulating “car by car” in search of more drivers, alive or dead.

The perfect storm, consisting of severe blizzards, howling winds and sub-zero temperatures, has caused more than 15,000 US flights to be canceled in recent days, including at least 2,600 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.

Buffalo, a city in Erie County no stranger to bad winter weather, is the epicenter of the crisis, buried under a staggering amount of snow.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has issued a blizzard warning. "blizzard of the century"
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the snowstorm “the blizzard of the century.” © Joed Viera / AFP

“It’s definitely the blizzard of the century,” Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters, adding that it’s “too early to say it’s nearing completion.”

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Some western New York towns were “covered with 30 to 40 inches (0.75 to 1 meter) of snow overnight,” Hochul said.

Later on Monday, Hochul met with President Joe Biden, who offered “all the power of the federal government” to support the state of New York, and said he and First Lady Jill Biden were praying for those who lost loved ones in the storm. White House statement.

The National Weather Service predicts it will rise another 14 inches on Monday, in addition to a few feet already leaving the city buried in snow, as authorities struggle to bring emergency services back online.

Buffalo, New York, seen in this photo taken from Governor Kathy Hochul's office, was crushed by a relentless snowstorm that killed at least 25 people in the area and left many more stranded in their cars and homes.
Buffalo, New York, seen in this photo taken from Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, was crushed by a relentless snowstorm that killed at least 25 people in the area and left many more stranded in their cars and homes. © STATEMENT / GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL’S OFFICE/AFP

Erie County administrator Mark Poloncarz said at a press briefing that he was “heartbroken” to report that the death toll from the blizzard had risen to 25 statewide.

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Erie’s death toll will likely surpass the notorious 1977 snowstorm in Buffalo, which killed about 30 people, Poloncarz said.

He added that “we expect more deaths” from the ongoing storm.

With more snow in the forecast and much of Buffalo being “impassable,” she joined Hochul to warn residents to descend into bunkers and stay in place.

‘inner wrenching’

The National Guard and other teams rescued hundreds of people from snow-covered cars and homes without electricity, but officials said more people were stranded.

A man and a boy walk across the frozen Reflection Pool to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, one of the few US cities hit by a severe winter storm that has brought temperatures below freezing across much of the country.
A man and a boy walk across the frozen Reflection Pool to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, one of the few US cities hit by a severe winter storm that has brought temperatures below freezing across much of the country. © Jim WATSON / AFP

Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the storm as the “worst” he’s ever seen, with periods of zero visibility and an inability to respond to emergency calls from officials.

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“It was heartbreaking for families to receive calls in a place where they were with their kids and they were told they were frozen,” he told CNN.

Hochul, a native of Buffalo, said he was stunned by what he saw during an expedition in the city.

“It’s (like) going into a war zone, and the vehicles on the sides of the roads are shocking,” said Hochul, adding that eight feet (2.4 meters) of drag to homes, as well as snowplows and rescue vehicles, were “buried.” “in the snow.

“This is a war with mother nature,” he said.

Extreme weather conditions plunged temperatures below freezing in all 48 states contiguous to the US over the weekend, including communities in Texas on the border with Mexico, where some newly arrived immigrants are struggling to find shelter.

Extensive power outages

According to tracker poweroutage.us, about 1.7 million customers were left without power in the freezing cold at one point on Saturday.

Antonio Smothers jump-starts his car in record cold in Nashville, Tennessee
Antonio Smothers jump-starts his car in record cold in Nashville, Tennessee © Seth Herald / AFP

That number has dropped significantly, although around 50,000 are still without electricity on the east coast of the US by mid-Monday.

Some Erie County residents aren’t expected to regain electricity until Tuesday, due to frozen electrical substations, and a substation was buried 18 feet under snow, a senior county official said.

Buffalo’s international airport will remain closed until Tuesday, with a driving ban in effect for most of the city and Erie County.

Drivers have been warned not to hit the roads, even when the country has generally reached the busiest time of the year for travel.

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