The city of Buffalo on the border with Canada was cut off from the outside world, and emergency services could not reach particularly hard-hit districts. The state governor, Kathy Hochul, spoke of a "crisis of epic proportions". It was "like in a war zone". Front doors disappeared behind snow drifts up to 2.40 meters high, and the situation became life-threatening due to power failures in freezing temperatures.
In Erie County, where Buffalo is located, some people froze to death in their cars and others were found on the road in snowdrifts, official Mark Poloncarz said. "This is not the Christmas we wanted." Power will not be restored until Monday.
Gov. Hochul dispatched about 200 members of the National Guard to the Buffalo area to support emergency services. "It's extreme, it's dangerous and deadly," she told CNN. Even National Guard units got stuck in the snow and needed help.
The city's international airport is scheduled to remain closed until Tuesday, and a driving ban remains in effect for the entire Erie County. Due to frozen substations, some residents won't be able to count on electricity again until Tuesday. A frozen substation is believed to have been buried under five meters of snow, a senior official said.
The extreme weather conditions saw temperatures plummet below freezing in 48 states over the weekend, thousands of flights were canceled and residents were stranded in their homes covered in ice and snow.
At least 31 people were killed in nine states, including four in Colorado and at least 12 in western New York State. Many of them died in traffic accidents due to black ice and poor visibility. Authorities warned that the number is likely to rise.
The traffic departments of several states advised motorists to stay at home - and that at the most popular travel time of the year. The winter storm again led to the cancellation of more than 2,400 US flights, according to the website Flightaware on Sunday. Around 3,500 US flights were canceled on Saturday and almost 6,000 US flights on Friday.
With regard to air traffic, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg gave a cautious all-clear on Saturday. He wrote on Twitter that "the most extreme disruptions are behind us as airline and airport operations gradually recover."
Despite this, numerous travelers continued to be stuck at airports, including in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and New York. Some of the busiest roads in the United States, including Interstate 70, had to be temporarily closed due to black ice and heavy snowfall.
According to the website Power Outage, almost 1.7 million people across the country were briefly without power on Saturday, and around 70,000 households in eastern states were still affected by power outages as of Sunday evening.
Canada was also trembling. Hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario and Quebec were without electricity. Numerous flights were canceled and all trains between Toronto and Ottawa were canceled due to a train derailment. Four people died and 53 others were injured when a bus overturned on an icy road in the Canadian province of British Columbia on Saturday.