Emergency crews in New York scrambled Monday to rescue residents stranded in what authorities called “the storm of the century,” a relentless storm that has left nearly 50 people dead in the United States and caused chaos in christmas trips
Blizzard conditions persist across parts of the northeastern United States, the stubborn remnants of a massive swath of extreme weather that gripped the country for several days, causing widespread power outages, travel delays and at least 49 dead in nine states, according to official figures.
In New York state, authorities have described ferocious conditions, particularly in Buffalo, with hours-long outages, bodies discovered in vehicles and under snowbanks and emergency personnel going “car to car” searching for survivors.
The perfect storm of heavy snow flurries, howling winds and sub-zero temperatures forced the cancellation of more than 15,000 flights in the United States in recent days, including nearly 4,000 on Monday, according to tracking site Flightaware.com.
Buffalo, an Erie County city that is no stranger to bad winter weather, is the epicenter of the crisis, buried under an impressive amount of snow.
“It’s definitely the blizzard of the century,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters, adding that it was “too early to say it’s over.”
ALSO READ: Storm deaths rise to 25 in western New York County
Hochul said some towns in western New York were blanketed with “30 to 40 inches (0.75 to 1 meter) of snow overnight.”
Later Monday, Hochul spoke with President Joe Biden, who offered “the full force of the federal government” to support New York state, and said he and first lady Jill Biden were praying for those who lost loved ones during the storm, according to a report. Statement from the White House.
Biden also approved a declaration of emergency for the state, the White House said.
The National Weather Service forecast up to 14 more inches of snow on Monday, on top of the several feet already buried in the city, with officials scrambling to get emergency services back online.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Monday afternoon that the blizzard-related death toll had risen to 27 countywide, including 14 people who were found outside and three who were be discovered in a car.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Poloncarz said Erie’s death toll would likely surpass that of the infamous Buffalo blizzard of 1977, when nearly 30 people died.
With more snow forecast and most of Buffalo “impassable,” he joined Hochul in warning residents to duck and stay put.
National Guard members and other crews have rescued hundreds of people from snow-covered cars and homes without power, but authorities have said more people are trapped.
Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the storm “the worst” he’s ever seen, with periods of zero visibility and authorities unable to respond to emergency calls.
“It was heartbreaking when you get calls where families are with their kids saying they were freezing,” he told CNN.
Hochul, a native of Buffalo, said he was shocked by what he saw during a reconnaissance tour of the city.
“It’s (like) going to a war zone, and the vehicles on the sides of the roads are shocking,” Hochul said, describing drifts of eight feet (2.4 meters) against houses, as well as snowplows and rescue vehicles.” buried”. in the snow
The extreme weather brought below-freezing temperatures across the 48 contiguous US states over the weekend, including Texas communities along the Mexican border, where some recently arrived migrants have struggled to find shelter.
READ ALSO: ‘Epic’ winter storm slams into US, leaving 1 million without power
Sweeping power cuts
At one point Saturday, nearly 1.7 million customers were without power because of the cold, according to tracker poweroutage.us.
That number has dropped substantially, although about 50,000 were still without power on the US East Coast as of midday Monday.
Because of frozen electrical substations, some Erie County residents were not expected to get power back until Tuesday, with one substation buried under 18 feet of snow, a top county official said.
Buffalo International Airport remains closed until Tuesday, and a driving ban remained in effect for the city and much of Erie County.
Road ice and whiteout conditions also led to the temporary closure of some of the nation’s busiest transportation routes, including part of Interstate 70.
Drivers were warned to stay off the roads, even as the nation entered what is usually its busiest time of year for travel.
ALSO READ: 70 Percent of US Under Deep Freeze Storm Warning