BUFFALO, N.Y. — The death toll from the massive winter storm that hit Western New York over the holiday weekend has been revised with new information.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday that the number of storm-related deaths now stands at 37 for the entire county. Of those deaths, 29 happened in the city of Buffalo with seven in the suburbs. The county executive says one individual died in an unknown location.
Niagara County also reported one death due to the storm.
The toll surpasses that of the historic Blizzard of 1977, blamed for killing as many as 29 people in an area known for harsh winter weather.
What You Need To Know
- The death toll from a pre-Christmas blizzard that paralyzed the Buffalo, N.Y., area and much of the country continues to rise as the region prepares for more snow
- The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office says there are at least 37 deaths in Erie County
- The storm was also blamed for at least another two dozen reported deaths in other parts of the country
- Relief is coming later this week, as forecasts call for temperatures to slowly rise, per the National Weather Service
Officials said Wednesday that the National Guard would also be going door to door in neighborhoods that lost power for an extended period of time. Their mission is to perform wellness checks, ensuring no one died in those homes while they were without power.
A driving ban remains in effect for the city of Buffalo on Wednesday. County Executive Poloncarz says that will be reevaluated overnight and into Thursday morning based on the street clearing process.
A Facebook group originally created in 2014, when Buffalo was buried under deep snow, has become a lifeline, seeking to help thousands seeking food, medicine, shelter and rescue in the latest storm. Currently managed by five women, the group swelled to at least 68,000 people as of Tuesday.
“We are seeing a lot of desperation,” said Erin Aquilinia, founder of the original group, in an online interview.
County Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth Jr. said officials also were somewhat concerned about possible flooding later in the week when milder weather begins melting the snow.
The rest of the United States also was reeling with at least an additional two dozen storm deaths reported elsewhere around the country, and power outages in communities from Maine to Washington state.
On the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota, snowmobiles were dispatched Tuesday to reach residents after food boxes were delivered by helicopter and trucks over the weekend, the tribe said. Ohio officials assessed water damage in the Statehouse after a pipe burst amid the freezing weather.
Even in central Florida, temperatures plunged as low as 27 degrees over the weekend. Growers’ groups were relieved Tuesday not to find widespread damage to the fruit and vegetable crops that supply much of the U.S. with fresh winter produce.
In Buffalo, the dead were found in cars, homes and snowbanks. Some perished while shoveling snow, others when emergency crews could not respond in time to medical crises. Poloncarz called the blizzard “the worst storm probably in our lifetime,” even for an area known for heavy snow. More bodies are expected to be found as the snow is cleared or melts.
The winter blast stranded some people in cars for days, shuttered the city’s airport and left some residents shivering without heat. More than 4,000 homes and businesses were still without power late Tuesday morning.
President Joe Biden offered federal assistance Monday to New York, allowing for reimbursement of some storm-relief efforts. Gov. Kathy Hochul toured the aftermath in Buffalo, her hometown, and called the blizzard “one for the ages.” Almost every fire truck in the city became stranded Saturday, she said.
Hochul noted the storm came a little over a month after the region was inundated with another historic snowfall. Between the two storms, snowfall totals are not far off from the 95.4 inches the area normally sees in an entire winter season.
The National Weather Service said the snow total at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport stood at 49.2 inches at 10 a.m. Monday. Officials said the airport is expected to reopen Wednesday morning.
Roughly 3,000 domestic and international U.S. flights were canceled Tuesday as of about 2 p.m. Eastern time, according to the tracking site FlightAware.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will look into Southwest Airlines flight cancellations that left travelers stranded at airports across the country amid the winter storm. Many airlines were forced to call off flights, but Southwest was by far the leader.