At least 32 people died in a devastating winter storm on Christmas Day in the eastern US.
Buffalo, New York, was isolated by a blizzard, preventing emergency personnel from reaching the worst-hit districts.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, stated, “It is (like) going to a war zone, and the vehicles along the sides of the roadways are terrible.” Eight-foot (2.4-meter) snow drifts and power outages have created life-threatening situations.
Hochul told reporters Sunday evening that residents were still in a “very serious life-threatening scenario” and to stay indoors.
Although the five-day storm with blizzard conditions and fierce winds showed signs of diminishing, over 200,000 people in many eastern states woke up without power on Christmas morning and many more had their holiday travel plans disrupted.
Over the weekend, inclement weather stranded holiday visitors with thousands of flights canceled and confined locals in ice- and snow-covered houses.
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Thirty-two weather-related deaths have been reported in nine states, including at least 13 in Buffalo’s Erie County, with officials predicting more.
Officials reported historically perilous conditions in Buffalo, with hours-long whiteouts and bodies found in vehicles and snow banks while emergency workers searched for victims.
Erie County’s driving prohibition and international airport closure continue until Tuesday.
Hochul stated the “blizzard of ’22” had exceeded the region’s 1977 record snowstorm in “intensity, length, and fury of the winds.”
One frozen substation was buried under 18 feet of snow, a senior county official said, preventing some people from regaining electricity until Tuesday.
‘Conditions Are Terrible’
Lake-effect snow was causing blizzard conditions in western New York’s Great Lakes region Sunday, with “further snow accumulations of 2 to 3 feet through tonight,” according to the National Weather Service.
One Buffalo couple, across the border from Canada, told AFP Saturday that they would not drive 10 minutes to see their relatives for Christmas due to impassable roads.
“It’s terrible because the circumstances are simply so bad…
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a lot of fire departments aren’t even sending out trucks for calls,” said 40-year-old Rebecca Bortolin.
Millions faced a travel nightmare.
Flightaware.com reported that the storm, one of the worst in decades, canceled about 3,000 US flights Sunday, 3,500 Saturday, and nearly 6,000 Friday.
Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, and New York airports had travelers stranded on Christmas Day.
Road ice and whiteouts closed some of the nation’s largest transport arteries, including Interstate 70.
Even as the nation entered its busiest travel season, drivers were advised not to drive.
Multiple power suppliers have urged millions of consumers to cut usage to avoid rolling blackouts in North Carolina and Tennessee due to inclement weather.
Poweroutage.us reported 1.7 million consumers without power on Saturday amid the bitter weather.
By Sunday night, only 48,000 eastern state customers were without electricity.
A Saturday bus rollover in British Columbia, Canada, caused by slippery roads killed four and hospitalized 53, including two in serious condition early Sunday.
Ontario and Quebec lost electricity to hundreds of thousands, major cities canceled flights, and the Toronto-Ottawa rail service was suspended.