A blizzard that paralyzed western New York over the Christmas weekend has killed more than two dozen people, local officials said on Monday, as crews struggled to dig out the snow-bound region around Buffalo from its fiercest winter storm in decades.
With snow continuing to fall on top of more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) dumped on Buffalo since the blizzard took shape on Friday, New York’s second-largest city stood as ground zero for a storm the governor called an “epic, once-in-a-lifetime” weather disaster.
The toll of confirmed storm-related deaths climbed to 27 in Buffalo and the rest of Erie County on Monday, from 13 the night before. The fatalities included cases of people found in snow banks and in cars or who had died from cardiac stress while plowing or blowing snow, county executive Mark Poloncarz said.
The county issued a “Shovel Smart” alert warning that the over-exertion from “shoveling heavy, wet snow can cause back injuries and heart attacks.”
At least 60 lives have been lost in weather-related incidents nationwide, according to an NBC News tally, from an arctic deep freeze and sprawling storm front that extended over most of the United States for days, as far south as the Mexican border.
The larger storm system has wreaked havoc with travel across the country over the holiday weekend, stranding passengers as thousands of flights were canceled.
The greater Buffalo region, on the edge of Lake Erie near the Canadian border, was hardest hit.
Nearly 50 inches (1.27 meters) of snow was measured at Buffalo Airport as of Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Although blinding winds that created white-out conditions for more than two days had abated by Monday, snow kept coming down, with accumulations of up to a foot (30 cm) more forecast through Tuesday in areas south of Buffalo and north of Syracuse.
NEW VIDEO: Snow drifts are reaching the height of SUVs in the Buffalo area as this historic blizzard gradually winds down. Some cars have been abandoned in the middle of roads during the height of the lake-effect snowstorm. #NYwx #snow pic.twitter.com/0v90aofgsX
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) December 25, 2022
Went outside to shovel our side door because the snow drift was nearly to the handle. Got this little video and it feels like a different world. 4ft show drift next to nearly bare ground. Cars buried but our 23″ candy canes visable. So weird and calm and quiet in North Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/yXHGyqvfxc
— Oreo Speedwagon (@BuffaloBobZ) December 25, 2022