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Seven dead in Buffalo as Arctic system freezes eastern U.S.

2022-12-25T20:24:42Z

A deadly blizzard pummeled Buffalo, New York over the holiday weekend, trapping people in their cars, causing power outages and raising the death toll from a severe winter storm system that swept the United States.

A deadly blizzard pummeled Buffalo, New York, on Christmas Day, trapping people in their cars, causing power outages and raising the death toll from a severe winter storm system that has swept the United States.

Thirty people have died so far in weather-related incidents across the country, according to an NBC News tally. CNN reported a total of 26 deaths.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the death toll from the storm had risen to seven from three overnight in the Buffalo region in far western New York. Some of the four reported dead on Sunday morning were found in cars and some in snow banks, Poloncarz said, adding that the death count might still rise.

“This is not the Christmas any of us hoped for nor expected,” Poloncarz said on Twitter on Sunday. “My deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.

Christina Klaffka, a 39-year-old North Buffalo resident, watched the shingles blow off her neighbor’s home and listened to her windows rattle from “hurricane-like winds.” She lost power along with her whole neighborhood on Saturday evening, and was still without electricity on Sunday morning.

“My TV kept flickering while I was trying to watch the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears game. I lost power shortly after the 3rd quarter,” she said.

Cars were trapped under 5-foot snow drifts in her neighborhood, Klaffka said, with more snow still forecast for Sunday afternoon.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters on Sunday that the Biden administration had agreed to support her request for a federal disaster declaration. Some 200 National Guard troops were on the ground in western New York, providing relief to first responders, doing wellness checks and bringing supplies to shelters, and more were on the way, Hochul said.

Two days of white-out conditions in western New York had made rescue efforts nearly impossible at times, officials said.

The blizzard was a result of a powerful winter weather system that has caused frigid temperatures from the Northern Great Plains to the U.S.-Mexico border since mid-last week. The storm was moving east on Sunday, after knocking out power to millions late last week and causing flight cancellations during the busy holiday travel period.

More than 150,000 U.S. homes and businesses were without power on Sunday, a sharp drop from the 1.8 million that were powerless as of early Saturday, according to PowerOutage.us. In Buffalo, 16% of residents had no electricity on Sunday, officials said.

More than 1,700 flights in the United States were canceled as of midday Sunday, according to flight tracker FlightAware, as weather further snarled holiday travel.

Christmas Day temperatures were still well below average across the central and eastern U.S., and below freezing even as far south as the Gulf Coast, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Rich Otto said.

In Erie County, hundreds of motorists were stranded in their vehicles over the weekend, with the National Guard called in to help with rescues, Poloncarz said.

A countywide driving ban remained in effect on Sunday.

The Buffalo airport had recorded nearly four feet of snow by Sunday morning, the National Weather Service said. White-out conditions persisted south of Buffalo on Sunday afternoon, with snow falling 2-3 inches per hour.

Officials in Kentucky confirmed there were at least three storm-related deaths in that state, while at least four people were dead and several injured in auto-related accidents in Ohio, where a 50-vehicle pileup shut down the Ohio Turnpike in both directions during a blizzard near Toledo on Friday.

Other deaths related to the extreme cold or weather-induced vehicle accidents were reported in Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas and Colorado, according to news reports.

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A snow plow is left stranded on the road following a winter storm that hit the Buffalo region on Main St. in Amherst, New York, U.S., December 25, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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