Winter storm update: Blizzard conditions, arctic freeze hit Buffalo


Brutal winter storms continue to batter much of the U.S., bringing one of the most snow-accustomed cities — Buffalo — to a standstill overnight and Saturday, with hundreds of people stranded in cars amid the cold and drifting snow Here, rescuers cannot reach them.

The pair died separately at home when first responders were unable to reach them. Mark C. Poloncarz, the executive director of Erie County, which includes Buffalo, said emergency services were not available for much of the region. A doctor is on the phone with a woman who is delivering her sister’s baby at home. First responders at the hospital were unable to reach a baby in need a few blocks away. People were trapped overnight in restaurants and homes, he said.

“It’s been a really, really bad night for our community,” Poloncarz said. “Thank goodness the sun is up.”

“This may be the worst storm in our community’s history, eclipsing the famous Blizzard of ’77,” he added.

About two-thirds of the area affected by the storm had no emergency response, he said. Emergency vehicles themselves were also stuck in the snow. “It’s not something we’re proud of,” Poloncarz said. More than 27.8 inches of snow fell at Buffalo Airport.

He warned people not to call 911 or emergency storm calls unless they were in a life-threatening crisis. Abandoned vehicles are causing more problems, and there are concerns that snow-clogged vents are causing carbon monoxide or natural gas exhaust to flow back into the home.

Why this snowstorm could be the worst in Buffalo history

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) ordered the National Guard to respond, and troops are on their way to the hardest-hit parts of the region. She and another official said there were multiple rescues overnight in the Buffalo area, in some cases snowplows pulled stranded motorists from their cars and took them to heating centers .

About 73,000 people were without power in New York state, half of them in the Buffalo area, Hochul said. The Buffalo airport will be closed until Monday morning, Hochul said, and she warned those hoping to go there for Christmas not to try to drive either.

Snow expected throughout the day in the Erie County area, possibly into early Christmas One day, Poloncarz said.

While Buffalo may have seen the worst of the storm, the freezing cold, snow and wind that has gripped the country for the past two days has not affected much of the country. Temperatures fell below freezing in Houston on Saturday, with sub-zero winds sweeping through much of the Midwest.

Four people were killed Friday after a 46-vehicle crash on the Ohio Turnpike, authorities said.

At least 1.5 million people were without power on Friday as temperatures plummeted, sometimes at record-breaking rates. About 1.1 million people were still without power as of noon ET Saturday, according to, including hundreds of thousands in Tennessee and Kentucky.

High energy demand brought on by cold temperatures caused nearly 340,000 people in the Carolinas to temporarily lose power on Christmas Eve, Duke Energy said. PJM, a grid operator with operations in 13 states from Illinois to Virginia and Washington, D.C., urged consumers to conserve electricity on Christmas morning.

FedEx said on Saturday that severe weather disrupted its hubs in Memphis and Indianapolis and expected deliveries through Monday could be delayed.

Air travel is in trouble, with thousands of flights cancelled.transportation secretary pete buttigieg tweeted About 20% of flights were canceled on Friday. Air travel is slowly returning, but he urged patience.

Snowstorms strangle the Great Lakes region. Even winter-tested cities like Chicago and Detroit have closed vacation spots and urged people to stay indoors.

The storm, described by the National Weather Service as a “once in a generation,” began Thursday and is expected to last through Christmas weekend, eventually carving a 2,000-mile path across much of the country. The danger zone stretches from Canada to Mexico and from Washington state to Florida.

In Michigan, an 82-year-old woman was found dead Friday morning outside her assisted living facility in the town of Bath, a Detroit television station reported.

On the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota, a tribal leader reported people were trapped by ice and 30 inches of snow and had to burn their clothes to keep warm because firewood deliveries couldn’t get through.

Frank Star Comes Out, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, wrote in an email.

In Kentucky, whirlwinds and plunging temperatures led to a series of accidents that led to a 14-mile mass reverse on U.S. Route 127. The icy weather caused dozens of vehicles to tip over and at least one tractor-trailer bend closed across the state due to slowdowns and road travel.

Only one lane was open south of Interstate 71 after the crash, and state officials reported that hundreds of travelers were trapped within a six-mile radius. Emergency officials were working to “get them off the road and into warmer conditions,” the state said in a Twitter post.

“I know this is tough for a lot of people, but we have health checks on every vehicle on I-71 in backup,” the Kentucky governor said. Andy Beshear said at a news conference Saturday morning. “There were no tragedies or serious medical injuries. Of course a lot of people had to be helped. I know a lot of people were terrified. It was a big tractor-trailer jackknife that took a lot of time to clean up.”

Beshear said there were 43,000 outages, and the state asked residents to reduce power usage to minimize the chance of a blackout. The governor issued an executive order lowering speed limits to 45 mph in some areas and urging people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

The outlook is brightening as temperatures gradually return. State officials said Saturday morning that roads were gradually being cleared, and emergency management director Jeremy Slinker said he was “hoping to get through today.”

In New York, water poured into the streets of Far Rockaway and other bay areas in Queens, then froze as the rain disappeared and temperatures plummeted, causing ice disasters, Hochul said.

She told a briefing on Saturday that the “real feeling” temperature was not above zero anywhere in the state. The governor said the western New York storm “could go down as one of the worst in history,” and attributed the worsening impact to the effects of climate change.

Still, Hochul said, New York City’s airports remain open and trains and subways are running.

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Jason Samenow, Danielle Paquette and Emmanuel Felton contributed to this report.

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