The winter storm in the United States, the fiercest in decades, has killed at least 34 people and left tens of thousands of homes without power and some residents trapped in their homes with huge accumulations of snow.
The extreme weather, with heavy snowfall and temperatures as low as -48 °C, led to the cancellation of thousands of flights and made many roads impassable during the busy holiday travel season.
Erie County in northwestern New York State was particularly hard hit.
The city of Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, was cut off, with emergency services unable to reach the hardest hit areas.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul told CNN that the storm is the “most devastating in Buffalo’s long history.”
“It’s like going to a war zone,” Hochul said Sunday night as she gave a report on the deaths and damage caused by the winter storm.
The bodies of some people were found inside their vehicles or trapped under snow banks. Other deaths occurred on roads, which were very dangerous because of frozen ground and poor visibility.
State emergency crews made nearly 500 rescues, including helping deliver a baby, officials said Sunday night.
The National Weather Service said the snow accumulation at Buffalo-Niagara Airport rose to 43 inches (109 centimeters) early Sunday morning.
The cause of death of those killed has not yet been determined. “The number will continue to rise,” warned Erie County spokesman Peter Anderson.
As of Monday morning, the Power outage site, which monitors electric service, was reporting that nearly 30,000 subscribers in Maine were without power and more than 13,000 in New York state.
More flights suspended for Monday
The arctic blast has spread deep cold across much of the United States since Thursday, from Washington state to Florida, with nearly 200 million people under a winter advisory, according to National Weather Service estimates.
In Washington, D.C., the high reached 22 degrees on Christmas Eve, the coldest high on that day since 1989, according to NWS data.
Western New York is drowning in a thick blanket of “lake effect” snow, which forms when cold air moves over the warm waters of the Great Lakes.
On Sunday more than 3,100 flights were canceled to, from and within the U.S. territory. As of early Monday morning, another 1,321 itineraries were suspended, according to air traffic tracking site FlighAware.
For many travelers, the nightmare continued at airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York.
Icy roads also led to the temporary closure of some of the country’s busiest routes, including Interstate 70, which traverses much of the U.S. from east to west.
The forecast: more snow at the start of the week
A period of dense snow is expected to persist through Monday night from the northern Plains through the Midwest, according to the NWS forecast.
Much of the eastern part of the country “will remain in a deep freeze through Monday before a moderating trend on Tuesday.”
Lake effect snowfall will continue to produce hazardous travel conditions locally for the next couple of days, but conditions are expected to slowly improve as we head into the final week of 2022.
The storm caused the usually warm state of Florida to drop some of the coldest temperatures since historical records have been kept.
One of the areas hardest hit by the cold in Florida is the area around the West Coast city of Tampa, where data collected Sunday by NWS showed a low of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (below 0 Celsius) at the International Airport.
With information from Univision