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Buffalo, New York, officials face questions about storm planning and response as harrowing accounts emerge of death and survival



CNN

Authorities in Buffalo, New York, are continuing to track hundreds of calls for help during and since the historic weekend blizzard, revealing people were killed in cars and snowmen. It is a “hard and daunting task” and authorities face tough questions about their treatment. Storm preparedness and disaster response.

The death toll in Erie County, New York, rose to 37, but 25 people died in 11 U.S. states as winter storms swept through most of the country, mostly from traffic accidents and the bitter cold.

In hardest-hit Buffalo, a six-day driving ban was lifted early Thursday morning as city hall, grocery stores and other major services reopened. Mayor Byron Brown said most of the streets were open to traffic by Wednesday night after hundreds of machines were plowed and the snow removed that day.

“We still have a long way to go, but we have come a long way in just a few days,” he said.

Still, residents are gearing up for what could be another weather headache, with heavy snow melt and rain forecast for Saturday, raising the possibility of “minor/massive” flooding. Basements could flood and streams could overflow, the National Weather Service said. Pumps and sandbags are on standby, according to Gov. The emergency services chief said there were enough supplies and personnel.

With temperatures soaring in New York State’s second-most populous city, more storm casualties are likely, and police are back on the scene Thursday after a body was reported but never found. Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said he plans to search the Buffalo location. A New York National Guard team is also investigating the city.

“All they had to do was grueling, gruesome work,” said Gramaglia, noting that his unit had about 1,100 backlogged welfare checks and follow-up 911 calls. “They’ve recovered a fair amount of bodies. It’s terrible.”

Erie County Chief Executive Mark Polonkers said, “The story is heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. Among the dead are elderly telecommuters, soon-to-be new fathers and strangers.” There is a grandmother who moved her body so that it would not snow anymore.

Amid these and other devastating explanations, questions ballooned Wednesday about the timing of Erie County’s driving ban – Enacted 9:30 am Friday – Whether the authorities have discussed issuing it before.

According to Poloncarz, leaders started talking about the ban last Thursday. Officials didn’t want the ban earlier than 7 a.m. so that workers on the third shift could go home before temperatures dropped below freezing, he said.

The cold has set in “dramatically,” he said. “The snow went from rain to sleet to snow in less than five minutes.”

Then, around 10 a.m. on Friday after the ban was issued, there was a whiteout, he said.

“I thought I did[the ban]at the right time,” Polonkers said Tuesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “Obviously some of those who died later died. It didn’t matter when the travel ban was issued.

“Looking back on it now, I can say, ‘Oh, I wish I had done this an hour or two ago.'” But ultimately… the money stops with me. …and if it’s not right, I’ll have to take responsibility for it.

Mayor Polonkers on Wednesday criticized Buffalo’s efforts to deal with the storm, saying Brown had not held daily coordination meetings with other municipalities and had slowed the city’s reopening.

“I’m not concerned about those comments,” Brown told CNN. “My concern is the residents of the City of Buffalo.”

Police have arrested 10 people in Buffalo in connection with alleged winter storm looting, Gramaglia said Wednesday. typical of the city, he noted.

Stories of heartwarming fellowship include a barbershop owner opening a chair for a storm-weary man all night, a woman who welcomed a stranger to warm her frostbitten hands, and a pair of doulas found online. helping a couple trapped in the snow give birth to a new baby girl.

Winter storms have slowly moved across the United States, disrupting holiday travel, robbing power and inflicting immense grief on those who have lost relatives and friends.62 storm-related deaths have been recorded. 38 in New York, 9 in Ohio, 3 each in Kansas and Kentucky, 2 each in Colorado and South Carolina, and 1 each in Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Nowhere has more deaths than Erie County.

The pregnant father, Abdul Sharif, 26, left home on Saturday morning to collect food for his family who had called for help, his cousin Ali Sharif told CNN. His wife, who was days away from giving birth, woke up that night to find him gone.

After sharing a photo of him on Facebook, his family received a call saying they rushed him to a children’s hospital after he was found lying in the street. He said he resettled to the United States in 2017 after spending about five years in

Monique Alexander, 52, ran out of the house saying she’d be right back because the situation got worse, her daughter Casey Macaron said. asked on the Buffalo Blizzard Facebook page if anyone had seen her mother.

A few minutes later, a stranger texted her and asked her to call him. “He was stuck too, walking down her street and saw her in the snow. so as not to be covered by

“Her grandchildren were waiting for her to come home,” she added. “We were waiting for her to come home.”

Anndel Taylor, 22, a senior domestic worker, said she was stuck in her car in Buffalo over the New Year’s Eve weekend, and when she couldn’t be reached, she posted her message on her private storm-related Facebook page. A relative who posted his whereabouts said: Her sister said she got a call from a man who found her pulseless.

And the body of Melissa Morrison, 46, a Buffalo mother of two, was found in the snow near Tim Hortons Coffee House, mother Linda Adeo said. rice field. Near the store near Morrison’s house. Adeo said the coroner’s office on Tuesday confirmed to her family that the body belonged to Morrison.

The canopy of a collapsed gas station along Niagara Street in downtown Buffalo Wednesday.

Along with the terror and grief, the glorious story of humanity also emerged.

“In typical good-neighbour-city fashion, people have come together and helped each other,” Buffalo Mayor Brown said Wednesday. “Neighbors helped their neighbors. Friends helped their friends. Members of this community helped people they had never met before.”

With emergency services restored, the New York National Guard rescued at least 86 people, including taking a woman to the hospital just before she gave birth.

A Buffalo barber shop owner opened a shop for people to escape the storm. “A lot of people slept in barber chairs, and a lot of people built chairs,” said Craig Elston. “I was just thinking about keeping people warm. It was really easy.”

Sha'Kyra Aughtry helps a man he finds stranded in the snow in Buffalo.

Sha’Kyra Aughtry got down to business when she looked out her window in Buffalo on Christmas Eve and saw a frostbitten man calling for help. After her boyfriend drove 64-year-old Joe White home, Autry melted the ice on his red, blistered hands with a blow dryer, she said. When she didn’t respond, her Facebook plea offered Good Samaritan a snowplow so Augtry could take White to the hospital.

Social media also came in handy, as two days before Christmas, Erica Thomas was trapped halfway through her front door in Buffalo, trapping her and her husband. Her pregnant father, Davon Thomas, called his 911, but later learned that the first responder had missed the call.

A post on the Buffalo Facebook group reached 5-year-old doula Raymonda Reynolds. Raymonda her Reynolds had a video call with her doula and her nurse Iva Blackburn to guide her through the delivery of her baby and the cutting of the umbilical cord.

“It started screaming like a Buffalo Bills touchdown,” Reynolds described the moment the little girl was born. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve been a part of.”