Dec 26 (Reuters) – A powerful blizzard that paralyzed western New York over the Christmas weekend killed at least 25 people, Erie County officials said on Monday, as road and utility crews spent a long day digging through the snowdrifts around Buffalo. .
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters at a Monday morning news conference that the number of storm-related deaths rose to 12 overnight, including cases of people who died in ice, in their cars or from heart ailments. Plowing or blowing snow.
More deaths have been reported, Polancarz said, but the county medical examiner is trying to determine if they are directly attributable to the weather.
“More deaths will be reported later today,” Bolancarz said.
The worst blizzard in 45 years formed late Friday and battered Western New York over the Christmas holiday weekend. It covered an Arctic freeze and winter storm front that stretched across most of the United States to the Mexican border for days.
At least 55 people have died in US weather-related incidents since late last week, according to an NBC News tally.
One of the hardest hit areas is the Great Buffalo area on the edge of Lake Erie near the Canadian border. Cars and buses were buried under high snowdrifts and high-lift equipment was used to transport hospital vehicles where ambulances could not drive.
Areas south of Buffalo and north of Syracuse are forecast to see up to a foot more of snow through Tuesday.
Strong winds and “lake-effect” snow — the result of moisture moving cold air over warm lake water — will rank as the “22nd snowstorm” in history, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. The worst blizzard since the blizzard of 1977 killed nearly 30 people.
Rescue efforts continue
Hundreds of National Guard troops assisted local first responders and state police on Monday, with crews rescuing people trapped in homes and cars, providing health checks and providing food and basic necessities.
Emergency workers struggled to navigate past snowdrifts to do their jobs, and several snow plows, tow trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles dispatched over the weekend had to rescue themselves after getting stuck in the snow, county officials said.
County Executive Bolancarz said he expects the White House to issue a disaster declaration on Monday that would help the region cover the difficult cost of storm recovery and recovery.
Thousands of people in Erie County had power restored as of Monday morning, Poloncarz said, while 13,000 customers were without power statewide, according to poweroutage.us.
A driving ban was still in effect in Buffalo on Monday, for safety purposes and to keep roads clear for emergency and utility workers trying to weave through a nearly impassable obstacle course of buried cars and snow banks.
“There are cars everywhere. Everywhere. Pointing in the wrong direction on the roads, they basically have to be plowed and dug up and hauled away. It takes time to get rid of them,” Bollencarz said.
Reporting by Gabriella Porter, Kanishka Singh and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chisu Nomiyama
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