The severe winter storm hitting the United States for several days has caused the death of at least 47 people in the country, including 25 in a single county in New York State, and this “blizzard of the century” is far from be completed, authorities warned on Monday.
“It’s far too early to say it’s over,” warned New York Governor Kathy Hochul, adding that up to 30 cm of snow was still expected to fall. “It’s clearly the blizzard of the century,” she added during a press conference from the city of Buffalo, where she was born.
Even if the intensity of the storm is no longer that of recent days, it is “still dangerous to be outside”, she warned.
Western New York, accustomed to cold and storms, was buried over the Christmas weekend under meters of snow, suffering from polar temperatures since last week.
The death toll in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, was already 13 as of Sunday evening, but local services have since confirmed the deaths of 12 more people, “bringing the total blizzard fatalities to 25,” it said. Monday morning Mark Poloncarz, responsible for this county.
Some people have been found dead in their cars or outside, and others have died of cardiac arrest while trying to clear snow, while temperatures are still freezing, he said.
He said he expected more victims to be found gradually.
The total of deaths confirmed by authorities across nine US states is at least 47 dead. In Ohio, road accidents linked to these bad weather killed nine people, the Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed to AFP.
– “Heartbreaking” –
Buffalo is still largely blocked, due to the impressive amounts of snowfall. Footage from downtown showed cars across the road, covered in snow.
“Please, unless you are part of the emergency services, do not drive,” asked Mr Poloncarz. “The conditions are bad.”
A travel ban was still in effect Monday in the west of the county, but it was defied by some residents, he said.
“What we’re doing today is getting people to doctors, nurses and hospitals,” county sheriff John Garcia told CNN on Monday morning. “The roads are finally starting to be passable because the winds have died down.”
During the height of the storm, rescuers were no longer able to reach people in distress, for example those stranded in their car or at home without electricity.
“It’s heartbreaking to have calls from families with kids saying they’re frozen,” Garcia said.
Electricity has been restored to more than 13,000 homes in the past 24 hours, Mark Poloncarz said Monday morning, but more than 12,000 are still without power. Some will not be able to be connected to the network before Tuesday, he warned.
– 2,600 flights canceled on Monday –
Since Wednesday evening, the United States has been hit by this storm of rare intensity, whose icy winds have caused heavy snowfall, especially in the Great Lakes region.
Tens of millions of Americans saw their Christmas weekend turned upside down by massive power outages, impassable roads and thousands of canceled flights, causing chaos at airports.
On Monday, more than 2,600 flights were still canceled in the United States, according to the monitoring site Flightaware.com.
Conditions are expected to improve only gradually as the week progresses.
The weather “will continue to cause hazardous travel conditions locally for the next two days,” the US Weather Service (NWS) said in its latest national bulletin.
“Most of the eastern United States will remain in freezing conditions through the day Monday, before a more moderate trend sets in from Tuesday,” he added.