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Death toll climbs as blizzard-battered Buffalo area digs out

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Roads reopened Thursday in storm-hit Buffalo Authorities continue to search for people who may have died or been stranded and suffering after last week’s blizzard.

The driving ban in New York’s second-most populous city was lifted just after midnight on Thursday, Mayor Byron Brown announced.

At least 40 deaths have been reported in western New York state, mostly in Buffalo, from a blizzard that raged across much of the country. With Buffalo in the crosshairs on Friday and Saturday.

“We’ve made great progress” on snow removal, Mr. Brown said at a press conference late Wednesday. Suburban roads, major highways, Buffalo He Niagara International Airport had already reopened.

Still, Brown urged residents not to drive unless necessary.

The National Guard was going door to door checking on people who had lost power. Officers from the Buffalo Police Department and other law enforcement agencies also searched for victims, sometimes using the officers’ personal snowmobiles, trucks, and other equipment.

Some casualties have yet to be identified, Erie County Commissioner Mark Polonkers said at a storm briefing on Thursday.

“There are families in this community who have not yet identified where their loved ones are. They are missing,” he said.

With the death toll already surpassing that of the region’s infamous blizzard in 1977 and rising daily, local authorities were faced with questions about how to respond. in last week’s storm. They claimed to be ready, but the weather was unusual, even in an area prone to powerful winter storms.

“The city did the best it could under the conditions of the historic snowstorm,” the mayor said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials have seen forecasts of rain later in the week as the snow melts as temperatures approach or exceed 50 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Celsius).

The National Weather Service predicts flooding will be minor, but state and local officials say they are still preparing. Gov. Kathy Hochol said the state is ready to deploy nearly 800,000 sandbags and more than 300 pumps and generators for flood response efforts, if needed. I was.

During the briefing, Poloncarz apologized for publicly criticizing the city of Buffalo’s snow clearing efforts the day before for being too slow and even “embarrassing.”

“We have dealt with some very heartbreaking issues, including ongoing death-related issues, identification of dead bodies, as yet unidentified individuals, and the introduction of new deaths,” Polonkatz said. said Mr. I was trying to contact Braun to make amends. “I basically lost focus.”

Mayor Brown dismissed Polonkers’ allegations, saying the city was “working diligently around the clock” to clear the snow and that it was working with the government and the community.

Brown, Poloncarz, and Hochul are all Democrats.

Natural catastrophe damage estimators say insured losses from winter storms are $5.4 billion in 42 states. According to Karen Clark & ​​Co., New York, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina will be hit hardest by storms, with sub-zero temperatures that can disrupt infrastructure and burst pipes, and account for the majority of losses. occupies.

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Peltz reported from New York.

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