Buffalo blizzard death toll passes 30 as storm preparation questioned

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Residents of Buffalo, New York, are digging holes after a blizzard.
Luke Bennett helps clear heavy snow for his neighbors along South Park Avenue in Buffalo, NY on December 27th.Photo: John Normile/Getty Images

The death toll from the Buffalo Blizzard over Christmas weekend rose to 31 on Tuesday. according to the numbers From the Chief Executive Officer of Erie County.

Important reasons: The toll makes it the deadliest lake-impacted snowstorm on record and the deadliest blizzard in Buffalo since at least 1950.

By numbers: The storm left Buffalo in a continuous blizzard for over 37 hours.

  • The National Weather Service defines conditions with winds of at least 35 mph and visibility of 1/4 mile or less. (A true blizzard condition is not declared until it lasts for at least 3 hours continuously.)
  • During this storm, Buffalo International Airport blew gusts of 71 mph and visibility frequently dropped to zero. This meant that a true whiteout condition had occurred. In situations like this, it’s easy to get lost even a few steps away from home.
  • Erie County CEO Mark Polonkers said 17 died outdoors after a storm delayed EMS service, 3 had a heart attack while shoveling snow, and 7 had a lack of heat. , and three were found outdoors. vehicle.

Line spacing: Buffalo’s predictions were dire, but given where the city would be placed in relation to the bomb cyclone forming across the Midwest and how the storm would interact with the waters of Lake Erie, officials Questions have been raised about how the U.S. prepared for the storm.

  • For example, Thursday night in Erie County issued a travel advisory It was supposed to go into effect at 7am ET on Friday, but with the blizzard already underway, the travel ban didn’t go into effect until 9:30am the next morning.
  • Residents had asked the county to declare the ban early, according to The Washington Post, but its absence has left employers, including retailers eager to spend one more day shopping before the holidays. warned that it would continue to operate.
  • of NWS blizzard warning The document, issued at 6:25 p.m. on December 23, the night before the onslaught began, read: “Travel would be impossible,” “Travel is strongly discouraged,” and “Life-threatening. It contained unusually strong language pointing to the possibility of a “state.”
  • Other weather service communications have warned of a “once in a generation” event for the city and surrounding areas.

What they say: Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson said: “The travel ban has come into effect to allow three-shift workers to get home as much time as possible before the storm hits from Thursday night.” rice field. Wednesday evening.

  • “It’s also worth noting that all government agencies, school districts, and many employers heard these warnings and were shut down for the day, so vehicles were off the road.”

conspiracy: In many extreme weather scenarios, the population has not experienced disasters of a certain scale.

  • In this case, Buffalo residents may have been desensitized to blizzard warnings given the area’s long history of exposure to such hazards.
  • Even the National Weather Service, which successfully warned of an impending disaster, was severely affected when additional forecasters were unable to reach the regional forecast office at the airport. leaving one crew of nine Work from Friday to Sunday.

Details from Axios:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with comments from Peter Anderson, spokesperson for Erie County Chief Executive Officer Mark Polonkers.

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