Western NY death toll rises to 27 from cold, storm chaos

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The death toll from the pre-Christmas blizzard that paralyzed much of the Buffalo region and country rose to 27 in western New York, it said Monday, a disaster in its history.

The dead were found in cars, in houses and in snowmen. Some died while shoveling snow. A storm that has hit much of the country is now believed to have killed at least 48 people across the country, with rescue and recovery efforts continuing on Monday.

A blizzard hit western New York Friday and Saturday, stranded drivers, lost power and prevented emergency services from reaching residents in frigid homes and stranded cars.

A huge snowdrift nearly covered cars on Monday, with thousands of homes, some decorated with dimmed holiday displays, but a lack of power left them in the dark.

The massive storm is expected to claim more lives as it has trapped some residents inside their homes and failed to provide power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

Extreme weather has spread from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the US population faced some kind of winter weather advisory or warning, with temperatures well below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains.

The National Weather Service said Sunday that frigid Arctic air “covering much of the eastern half of the United States” will slowly recede.

In Buffalo, we watched hurricane-force winds and snow create whiteout conditions that paralyzed emergency response efforts.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said nearly all fire trucks in the city were stranded on Saturday and pleaded with people to respect the ongoing driving ban in the area on Sunday.National Weather Service Total snowfall at Buffalo Niagara International Airport was 43 inches (1.1 meters) as of 7 a.m. Sunday, according to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Officials said the airport will be closed until Tuesday morning.

With snow swirling over pristine, impassable streets, forecasters predicted an additional 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) in some areas by early Monday morning in gusts of wind up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour. I warned you that it might snow. Police said there were two “isolated” cases of looting during the storm on Sunday night.

Two people died Friday at their suburban home in Cheektowaga, New York. Because the paramedics weren’t there in time to treat their condition. Erie County Administrator Mark Polonkers said 10 people died during the storm, including six in Buffalo, and warned that more could be dead.

“Some were found in cars, others were found on the road in snowmen,” Polonkaerts said. “I know people who have been stuck in their cars for more than two days.”

Sub-zero conditions and power outages caused the Buffalonians to rush to get anywhere in the heat. Hochol calls it the city’s longest-lasting blizzard ever.

Dijak Ilunga of Gaithersburg, Md., was en route to spending Christmas with his daughters on Friday to visit relatives in Hamilton, Ontario when his SUV got stuck in Buffalo. Instead, they left their engines running for hours, swaying in the wind and almost buried in the snow.

By 4am on Saturday, fuel was almost gone, so Ilunga made the desperate choice to risk a howling storm to reach a nearby shelter. He carried his 6-year-old Destiny on his back, while 16-year-old Cindy cradled a Pomeranian puppy and followed in his footsteps during the drift.

“If I stay in the car, I will die here with my children,” recalled Ilunga. He cried as his family walked through the shelter door. “It’s something I will never forget in my life.”

Hundreds of flight cancellations are already expected after the bomb cyclone as travelers’ weather continues to deteriorate — when atmospheric pressure dropped rapidly during a strong storm — occurred near the Great Lakes, stirring up blizzard conditions such as high winds and snow.

The storm caused power outages in communities from Maine to Seattle. According to, he had less than 100,000 customers without power at 7 a.m. EDT Monday, down from his peak of 1.7 million.

The mid-Atlantic grid operator called on 65 million consumers to conserve energy amid Saturday’s freeze.

Storm-related deaths were reported across the country, from six motorists killed in crashes in Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky to a woman who fell into the ice of the Wisconsin River.

In Jackson, Mississippi, city officials announced that residents must boil their drinking water on Christmas Day. Because the waterway burst in the extreme cold


Breiberg reported from Dallas. His AP journalist Mike Schneider from Orlando, Florida. Stephanie Dazio in Los Angeles. Jonathan Mathis of Charleston, West Virginia. Ron Todd of Philadelphia. John Lavy of Charleston, West Virginia. Mark Levy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Jeff Martin of Atlanta. Wilson Ring of Stowe, Vermont contributed to this report.

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